Archive for February, 2024

This Book Cover Designer Reveals His Surprising Process

Thursday, February 29th, 2024

Discover emerging book cover trends and what this book cover designer from Faceout Studio has learned about the publishing process from concept to execution.

This Book Cover Designer Reveals His Surprising Process

Join us for an inspiring conversation with Faceout Studio book designer Elisha Zepeda as he takes us on a journey from working in a bookstore to navigating his first year in book cover design. 

Elisha navigates the challenges of cover rejection through a unique avenue- his TikTok account, where readers can discuss the rejected and accepted designs with him.

Today he shares what he sees as emerging trend in cover design and the struggles he’s faced with everything from font selection to breaking out of the “girl turning away” cover that we can’t seem to escape from as readers.  

If you are entertaining a self-publishing journey, Elisha shares valuable tips on communication, budgeting, and bringing your visions to life in your book covers. 

Here are examples of beautiful book cover designs from emerging designer Elisha Zepeda:

The Woman With a Purple Heart by Diane Hanks
Ain't No Promised Land by Tina Shelton
Cities of Women by Kathleen B. Jones

We couldn’t have him on the show and not discuss his recommendations for some standout covers that have captured his imagination and hear more about his process of honoring an author’s work through unique details that created reverence for the person who spent months or even years on their books. 

Elisha Zepeda- Book Cover Designer With Faceout Studio

Meet Elisha Zepeda 

Elisha is a book designer for Faceout Studio in Oregon. He documents his publishing journey on his Tiktok account, where readers can see how his book designs evolve from concept to final product.

When not designing books, he is writing/recording music, toying with a film camera, or defending the merits of decaf over regular coffee. You can view his portfolio on his website, where he curates his work. 

This Book Cover Designer Reveals His Surprising Process

Listen to the Book Gang Podcast:

Listen below or listen on your favorite podcast listening platform!

Mentioned in this episode:

Joining Patreon provides valuable financial support to my show. You will also receive our FULLY BOOKED buzzy new release show, a 30-page monthly newsletter, and access to our monthly Zoom book club.

Join the Book Gang Patreon

Meet the NEW 2024 MomAdvice Book Club Books

The Unseen World by Liz Moore

The Mindful Librarian Substack

Faceout Studio

Browse Elisha’s Entire Portfolio

Dudley’s Bookshop

The Best Libby App Tips and Tricks

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

Yellowface by R. F. Kuang

Cities of Women by Kathleen B. Jones

The Woman with a Purple Heart by Diane Hanks

Bluff by Michael Kardos

Shake It Up, Baby! by Ken McNab

Criterion Collection Posters

Bliss Montage by Ling Ma

Rodrigo Corral

Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss

Disorientation by Elaine Hsieh Chou

Bad Thoughts by Nada Alic

Connect With Us:

Connect With Elisha on His Website or Tiktok

Connect with Amy on Instagram, on TikTok, or MomAdvice

Buy Me a Coffee (for a one-time donation) pays a 10% commission on every sale and matches 10% to independent bookstores!

The Spray Painting on Wood Furniture Technique You Need Now

Tuesday, February 27th, 2024
The Spray Painting on Wood Furniture Technique You Need Now

This EASY tutorial teaches you how spray painting on wood furniture can transform a piece. This paint job is a budget-friendly beginner project.

Painting furniture with a brush can be time-consuming, so I have fallen in love with this spray painting technique, which gives a fresh new look with a small time investment.

Today I am going to show you how to spray paint your wood furniture to give an old piece in your home a new lease on life.

Rust-Oleum Ultra Cover 2X Spray Paint

Can you use spray paint on wood?

You might be surprised to learn that spray painting on wood furniture IS a great way to update your wood furniture pieces.

I have spray-painted many pieces in our home with great success.

Much of your success with this painting project will be found in these valuable tips, including inverting your furniture when painting, using a spray grip, and picking the right spray paint for your project. 

How to Spray Paint Furniture

Today, I’m painting furniture pieces that have withstood the test of time for TEN YEARS in our home. I’d love to share some tips for your first project if you have never spray-painted furniture. 

The Spray Painting on Wood Furniture Technique You Need Now- Painting Supplies

Considerations for Spray Painting Wood:

You can scroll down to see the complete supplies list and step-by-step instructions.

Choose the Right Spray Paint:

When spray painting wood furniture, the quality of your spray paint matters. 

I’ve had great success with Rust-Oleum spray paint for its excellent coverage, fast drying times, and durable finish. 

Not only will you find a wide variety of gorgeous colors, but they also offer fabulous finishes like metal and stoneware to experiment with on other elements in your pieces.

Determine Paint Quantity:

Before starting your project, estimate how much spray paint you’ll need to cover your furniture adequately. Having extra spray paint on hand is better than running out midway through. 

Most spray paint cans indicate the coverage area on the label to help you calculate, but at minimum, you will need 2-3 cans for each project. 

Prepare Your Space for Spray Painting:

Whether you paint indoors or outdoors, ensure proper ventilation to avoid inhaling fumes and overspray. 

If painting indoors, protect surrounding surfaces from overspray with drop cloths or cardboard. You can also use a paint tent to help with this process. 

Prepping Wood for Spraying

Proper preparation is critical to any successful spray painting project.

Clean the wood thoroughly to remove dirt or grime. 

Next, sand the wood furniture for better paint adhesion. Sand any edges with your sander to smooth the top of your piece. 

Sanding Wood Furniture for Spray Painting

Taking your time when you sand your furniture is necessary to have an excellent base for painting.

Once the piece is thoroughly sanded, wipe it down with a damp cloth to prepare it for priming.

Finally, fill any imperfections with wood filler and sand smooth before painting.

Primer for Spray Painting Furniture

Apply Thin, Even Coats:

To achieve a smooth finish, apply thin, even coats of spray paint, holding the can 8-12 inches away from the surface. 

Avoid heavy application to prevent drips and runs.

Allow each coat to dry completely before applying the next.

Consider Weather Conditions:

Temperature and humidity can affect the drying time and finish of spray paint. 

Choose a day with mild temperatures and low humidity for optimal results. 

Avoid spray painting on windy days to prevent dust and debris from sticking to wet paint.

Practice Proper Spray Painting Technique:

Practice spray painting on scrap wood or cardboard before tackling your furniture.

Practicing is especially important if this is your first time using a spray grip on your spray paint.

Maintain a consistent spraying motion and overlap each pass slightly for even coverage.

Keep the nozzle clean to prevent clogs and ensure a smooth paint flow.

Spray Painting Metal Pulls on Spray Painted Table
Spray Painting Metal Pulls on Spray Painted Table

Optional: Customize Your Hardware

If you desire, you can spray paint your hardware.

As you know, cabinet pulls and drawer handles can be expensive to replace, and sometimes older pieces have more custom-fitting hardware, so spray paint can be a great way to freshen it up.

We replaced the wooden handle with a black hardware piece and then spray-painted the old gold accessories black with a can I had in my craft supplies. 

I recommend purchasing a metallic spray paint in your desired finish.

Glaze for Spray Painting on Wood Furniture

Optional: Add An Antique Glaze

An antique glaze can add depth and dimension to your furniture piece after spray painting furniture.

Follow the instructions below for timing your application of the wood glaze after painting your piece.

Sanding Wood Furniture for Glaze
Sanding Wood Furniture for Glaze

To apply, rough up the edges with your sandpaper to expose the wood.

Sanding Wood Furniture for Glaze

Next, using a clean rag, dip it in your glaze and then apply the glaze to your piece in a circular motion.

The Spray Painting on Wood Furniture Technique You Need Now
The Spray Painting on Wood Furniture Technique You Need Now
The Spray Painting on Wood Furniture Technique You Need Now

With a clean and damp cloth, remove as much of the glaze as you would like.

I, again, removed this in a circular motion from the piece until it added a hint of variation to the wood. 

Spray Painting Furniture Paint Supplies

How to Spray Paint Wood

Materials Needed:

  1. Spray Paint Primer– Use gray if doing a dark color or white if doing a light color
  2. 1-2 Cans Rust-Oleum American Accents Ultra Cover 2X Spray Paint, any shade (I am using Moss Green)- make sure the one you choose is a spray paint for wood
  3. Rust-Oleum Standard Spray Grip (make sure you choose a paint sprayer nozzle that fits the spray paint brand you choose for your project)
  4. Rust-Oleum Decorative Glaze in Java Brown
  5. 220 Grit Sandpaper
  6. Wood Filler, if needed, for filling in imperfections
  7. Putty Knife
  8. Drop Cloth
  9. Rags
  10. Polycrylic in a Clear Satin (Water-Based)


  • Prepare the Surface: Wipe the entire piece down with a clean cloth to remove dirt or debris. Disassemble any drawers and hardware to prepare it for painting. Fill any spots with wood putty or wood filler that need it.
  • Sand Your Wood Furniture: Sand the wood furniture thoroughly to improve paint adhesion and create a smoother surface. Pay extra attention to sanding the edges and the top of the piece.
  • Prime the Piece: Start with your piece inverted to prevent drips and ensure full coverage. Hold your can 8 inches away from your surface and spray your primer in a sweeping motion side to side with a slight overlap. Allow the primer to dry for one hour. Once dry, put the piece right side up and finish priming the top.
  • Apply Base Coat: Now, it is time to paint over primer. Repeat the same spray painting process with your choice of Rust-Oleum American Accents Ultra Cover 2X in your favorite shade. Once the piece is fully painted, allow it to dry overnight before glazing (optional).
  • Finish with Polycrylic: Once the paint is dry, apply two coats of Polycrylic in a Clear Satin finish, giving your piece a slick, smooth finish. Use a clean paintbrush or foam brush to apply evenly.  

After you are done, make sure to allow the sealer to dry for two hours before reapplying.

I recommend allowing the piece to dry overnight before using or moving it.

Here are some FAQs on Spray Painting Wood:

Can I spray paint wood without sanding?

Yes, you can spray paint wood without sanding; however, achieving the best results depends on the quality of your wood furniture, its condition, and being mindful of the Rust-Oleum product you choose. 

When it comes to this painting project, sanding is necessary to help the spray paint stick. 

If you are determined not to sand your piece, practice spray painting on the the underside to discover if it will work. 

Remember, if the surface is not smooth, that will pull through no matter how much paint you put over it. 

How Do I Apply Wood Putty or Wood Filler to Repair My Furniture?

If your furniture piece has been well-loved, you can still achieve a smooth finish spray painting wood furniture by using a product like wood putty or wood filler to repair spots on your piece. 

Wood putty or wood filler fills gaps, holes, or cracks in wood surfaces, providing a smooth and even finish. 

It helps to improve the appearance of the wood to prepare the surface for painting, staining, or sealing.

To apply wood putty, scoop a small amount onto a putty knife or your fingers, then press it firmly into the imperfection. 

Scrape away any excess putty and allow it to dry according to the manufacturer’s instructions before sanding smooth.

How to Paint Laminate Furniture Without Sanding

Can I use spray paint on laminate furniture?

Visit my how to paint laminate furniture without sanding tutorial for tips on the best primer for these types of laminate wood projects. 

To try this with spray paint technique, follow my instructions for priming laminate furniture and then use today’s spray painting tips after your piece is primed. 

Is it better to spray paint or brush paint wood?

Spray painting wood furniture is ideal for smaller pieces in your home. Use this painting technique for coffee, accent, or decorative elements around your house. 

How do I get a smooth finish with spray paint on wood?

To achieve a smooth finish, apply thin coats of paint, maintain consistent strokes, and sand between coats if necessary. If you follow my tuturial, you should have great success!

Love this tutorial?  Don’t miss these other fun home improvement projects:

How to Paint a Kitchen Table– Revitalize your kitchen table with a coat of paint. Discover easy steps to give your dining area a new lease on life.

How to Paint Laminate Furniture Without SandingDiscover the secrets of painting laminate furniture effortlessly, no sanding required! The possibilities are endless, whether it’s Ikea laminate pieces or electric fireplaces with heaters liike our family! 

Stain Picnic Table Tutorial– Enhance outdoor gatherings by staining your picnic table with this tutorial. Explore how to protect your outdoor wood furniture so you can use it year after year. 

How to Stain Wood Furniture– Bring new life to your furniture by staining it. Follow these straightforward steps to add rich color and depth to your favorite pieces.

The best part is that you can combine this staining project with today’s tutorial!

This post contains affiliate links.

Tutorial updated: February 27, 2024

Pin It

How to Candy Nuts (EASY RECIPE)

Monday, February 26th, 2024
How to Candy Nuts

Learn how to candy nuts with this candied nuts recipe that incorporates sugar and spice. This yummy no bake treat is a perfect gift to give for the holidays.

Are you ready to impress with a holiday gift that’s as easy to make as it is delicious? Look no further than this sugar & spice candied nut mix!

Whether you’re a seasoned baker or a kitchen novice, this recipe will surely become a favorite for gift-giving or holiday snacking.

Making your own flavored nut mixes might not be something you have considered for the holidays, but once you try this delicious nut mix, you will have a difficult time giving these sugared and spiced holiday nut mixes away.

What Are Candied Nuts Made Of?

Candied nuts are made by coating raw nuts in a mixture of sugar, spices, and egg whites and then baking them until golden and crispy. 

This creates a sweet, crunchy treat perfect for snacking or gifting.

How to Candy Nuts

Kitchen Equipment Needed to Candy Nuts

Mixing bowls- For mixing the nuts and spice mixture.

Measuring cups and spoons- For measuring the spices and nuts.

Baking sheet- For baking the nuts in the oven.  I recommend the Nordic Ware Big Baking Sheet for your holiday baking projects.

Parchment paper or silicone baking mat- For lining the baking sheet.

Whisk- For whisking the egg whites and spices.

Wooden spoon- For stirring nuts.

Airtight containers or packaging materials- For storing or gifting candied nuts.

How to Candy Nuts

How to Candy Nuts

You can scroll down to see the complete ingredient list and step-by-step instructions.

Preparation: Preheat your oven and line a baking sheet.

Mix Spices: Whisk together sugar, water, egg white, and spices.

Coat Nuts: Toss raw nuts in the spice mixture until evenly coated.

Bake: Spread nuts on the baking sheet and bake, stirring occasionally.

Season: Sprinkle hot nuts with coarse salt for a perfect finish.

Cool and Package: Let the nuts cool, then package them for gifting or enjoying.

Before I share the recipe, here are some answers to commonly asked questions about how to candy nuts:

Where is The Best Place to Buy Nuts for Gifts?

If you have a membership to Costco or Sam’s Club, you can buy these ingredients in bulk to save on your cost per pound.

I also found this Reddit thread on where to buy the cheapest nuts and thought it had some incredible suggestions that I wouldn’t have thought of to reduce the price on buying nuts in bulk.

How to Candy Nuts

What Are the Best Nuts for a Holiday Nut Mix?

You can choose any combination of mixed nuts that you might love or just keep things simple and roast only your absolute favorite. I’m just using three of my favorites in this recipe- pecans, almonds, and walnuts.

My favorite varieties of nuts include candied pecans, almonds, and walnuts.

How to Candy Nuts

What Other Spice Combinations Can I Try With These Candy Nuts?

These nuts are tossed with some of my favorite holiday spices- cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cloves, and allspice. 

Feel free to try building your own spice combination. 

Add cardamom for a Middle Eastern twist or smoked paprika for a smoky flavor. 

Mix in ginger and cloves for a festive touch, or add a hint of cayenne for some heat. 

You can even experiment with Chinese five-spice or curry powder for more adventurous flavors.

How to Candy Nuts

How Long Do Candied Nuts Last?

Properly stored in an airtight container, these candied nuts can last up to two weeks, making them an ideal make-ahead gift for the holiday season.

How Do You Make Candied Nuts Not Sticky?

To prevent your candied nuts from becoming too sticky, spread them out in a single layer on the baking sheet and stir them every 15 minutes while baking. 

Also, sprinkling them with coarse salt while still hot can help absorb excess moisture and enhance the flavor.

How to Candy Nuts

How Do I Package Nuts for Gift-Giving?

This time of year, the craft stores are loaded with food packaging for your gifts. I love to check the seasonal aisles in my local craft stores.

Nut Tins in Bulk

The important thing is that they are airtight, especially if you are giving a large amount as a gift.

While these paper boxes make a cute display, but buying nut tins in bulk will help your nuts stay fresher longer.

Strawberry Pecan Salad

What Dishes Can I Enhance With These Candied Nuts?

Looking for more recipes to incorporate candy nuts? I’ve got you covered!

Sprinkle these candy nuts over salads like my strawberry pecan salad for added crunch and sweetness.

Honestly, any fruit and candied nut combo works well in a spinach salad.

You can use them as a topping for a thick smoothie bowl or slow cooker apple oatmeal (steel cut recipe).

These can also be incorporated into dark chocolate brownies with sea salt for a fun baking twist, or simply enjoy them alone as a satisfying treat any time. 

Add these over ice cream with caramel, toffee, or chocolates for topping for an indulgent treat. If you feel ambitious, this roasted plum ice cream with cinnamon would be another fantastic option.

What Other No Bake Christmas Treats Can I Make for the Holidays?

For other easy no-bake gifts, I recommend these gluten-free cake mix cookies, this easy microwave peanut brittle, or my peppermint cheesecakes in jars.

How to Candy Nuts
How to Candy Nuts

Candied Nuts

Yield: 6 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes

This easy nut mixture is created from spices in your pantry and is perfect for your holiday snacking or giving.


  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar (you can use white or brown sugar)
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • Coarse salt for sprinkling
  • 2 cups pecans, halves
  • 2 cups whole almonds
  • 2 cups walnuts


      1. Prep oven and baking sheet. Heat oven to 250°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
      2. Add the beaten egg white, water, sugar, granulated sugar, ground cinnamon, ground cloves, allspice, and nutmeg to a large mixing bowl and whisk until evenly combined.
      3. Add the pecans, almonds, and walnuts to the sugar mixture and gently toss until the nuts are evenly coated.
      4. Spread the nuts in a single layer on the baking sheet. Bake for about 45 minutes. Every 15 minutes, remove the nuts and stir them.  When the cooking time is done, the nuts should be fragrant, and the sugar coating cooked. 
      5. Transfer the baking sheet to a wire cooling rack and sprinkle liberally with coarse salt while still hot.
      6. Allow the nuts to come to room temperature. The sugar coating will continue to harden and dry once the nuts cool. 
      7. Once cooled, store the candy nuts in an airtight container for up to two weeks.


Add a pinch of cayenne pepper to make these into sweet & spicy nuts.

Recommended Products

As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 845Total Fat: 72gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 62gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 337mgCarbohydrates: 45gFiber: 11gSugar: 30gProtein: 19g

TELL ME: What did you think of this candied nut recipe?

Recipe updated: February 26, 2024

Pin It

The Best Gluten-Free Meatloaf Recipe

Wednesday, February 21st, 2024

This easy gluten-free meatloaf recipe uses an unusual breadcrumb substitute- instant mashed potatoes! With a tangy glaze, this recipe is a classic for a reason!

The Best Gluten-Free Meatloaf Recipe

I have tried and tried and tried to create a delicious gluten-free meatloaf but have failed on countless occasions. 

We incorporated all of the usual suspects for months of testing.

From oatmeal to gluten-free breadcrumbs to no breadcrumbs to fresh gluten-free breadcrumbs. 

It was a parade of hard-as-a-rock meatloaves, runny meatloaves, gummy meatloaves, and dense meatloaves. 

Imagine my delight when I stumbled upon a gluten-free substitute that finally created the consistency we had been after all along.

This tried-and-true gluten-free ingredient is one I had never considered until America’s Test Kitchen offered this as a suggestion in their How Can It Be Gluten-Free Cookbook.

This meatloaf recipe offers an unusual binding agent that yields a fluffy and delicious meatloaf without gluten. 

Here’s the secret: Your new meatloaf gluten-free breadcrumb substitute is instant mashed potato flakes! 

Let’s break down how this recipe works and some tips and tricks for the perfect gluten-free loaf that you can eat now or freeze for later!

The Best Gluten-Free Meatloaf Recipe

Kitchen Equipment Needed for Gluten-Free Meatloaf

Meatloaf pan– For your prepared gluten-free loaf- if you don’t have one, please see the substitution below.

Large mixing bowl- For mixing the meatloaf mixture

Whisk- For mixing the meatloaf glaze

12-inch nonstick skillet- For sauteing the veggies in this recipe

Brush- For applying the meatloaf glaze.

Measuring cups and spoons- For measuring the ingredients in this meatloaf mixture.

The Best Gluten-Free Meatloaf Recipe

How to Make a Gluten-Free Meatloaf

Scroll down to see the complete ingredient list and step-by-step instructions.

Preheat and Prepare: Adjust the oven rack to the upper-middle position and preheat the oven. Prepare the meatloaf pan and spray the foil with cooking oil spray.

Prepare the Glaze: In a bowl, stir the ketchup, light brown sugar, and cider vinegar until well combined. Set aside.

Sauté the Aromatics: Heat vegetable oil in a skillet. Sauté finely chopped onions until softened for about 5 minutes. Stir in minced garlic and thyme, cooking until fragrant for about 30 seconds, and transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Let cool. 

Mix the Meatloaf Mixture: Combine cooled onion with eggs, milk, Dijon mustard, gluten-free Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, potato flakes, and minced parsley. Mix until fully incorporated, and blend in ground pork and lean beef.

Shape and Bake: Transfer the meat mixture to the foil rectangle on the wire rack and shape it into a 9×5-inch loaf. Brush half of the ketchup mixture over the meatloaf. Bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes. After 40 minutes, brush the remaining ketchup mixture over the meatloaf.

Let the meatloaf cool for 15 minutes before slicing.

This is a brief overview of my recipe. If you need comprehensive instructions, please refer to the recipe card at the bottom of this post.

Before I share the full recipe, I’d love to put all those hours I spent in cooking classes for my dietetics program to work.

Here’s how to nail a great meatloaf no matter what recipe you use. 

The Best Gluten-Free Meatloaf Recipe

What Keeps Meatloaf From Falling Apart?

There are three ways to keep a meatloaf from falling apart- binding agents, avoiding overmixing, and using a pan with drainage holes.

Ingredients that act as binders, such as eggs, breadcrumbs, or a gluten-free substitute like instant mashed potatoes, are essential.

These ingredients help hold the meat mixture together and provide structure during baking. 

Also, try to avoid overmixing the meatloaf mixture, as excessive mixing can break down the proteins in the meat and result in a crumbly texture. 

What Are Potato Flakes?

Technically, potato flakes are dehydrated mashed potatoes cooked, mashed, and then dried to form flakes. 

Instant mashed potatoes are a shelf-stable product used as a quick way to prepare mashed potatoes.

Typically, you would rehydrate them with water, milk, or a mixture of both, along with added butter or margarine.

Besides serving as a quick side dish, potato flakes are a gluten-free thickening agents.

You can use this in soups and stews, as a binder in meatloaf and meatballs, and in bread making to add moisture and a soft texture. 

Experiment in your kitchen beyond this recipe using this as your binder. 

Why Are Instant Mashed Potatoes a Good Breadcrumb Replace For a Gluten-Free Meatloaf?

When I took cooking classes, we constantly tested binding agents, and I’m baffled why I hadn’t considered this as a tool before. 

Now, I’m dreaming of other ways to incorporate it into my other recipes, from meatballs to meatloaves.

Let’s discuss why instant mashed potatoes are an excellent breadcrumb substitute:

Texture: Instant mashed potatoes have a powdery consistency that, when mixed with liquids, forms a thick and cohesive mixture. 

This helps hold the meatloaf together just like breadcrumbs or traditional wheat-based binders.

Neutral Flavor: Instant mashed potatoes typically have a mild, neutral flavor, which won’t overpower the taste of the meatloaf. 

Naturally Gluten-Free: Since instant mashed potatoes are made from potatoes, they are naturally gluten-free. 

This is the perfect ingredient substitute for those who need to avoid gluten due to celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.

Convenience: Instant mashed potatoes are readily available and easy to prepare, making them a convenient option for adding moisture and binding properties without needing specialty ingredients.

Price: This ingredient choice is less expensive than gluten-free breadcrumbs and is available at all discount grocery stores (hint, hint- Aldi Supermarket), including the dollar store! 

How Can I Make This a Dairy-Free Meatloaf Recipe?

To make this dairy-free, choose a non-dairy alternative like almond milk or soy milk for this recipe.

For the record, most instant potato flakes do not contain dairy.

They are typically made from dehydrated potatoes without any dairy ingredients added. 

However, it’s always a good idea to check the ingredient list on the packaging or contact the manufacturer for clarification.

Meatloaf Pan

What Are Meatloaf Pans?

A meatloaf pan is a baking dish designed specifically for making meatloaf. 

It typically has a rectangular shape with high sides and may come with a removable insert or rack that allows excess fat to drain away during cooking.

Meatloaf pans come in various materials, including metal, glass, and silicone, and may feature non-stick coatings for easy cleanup. 

Using a meatloaf pan helps shape it into a uniform loaf shape and prevents it from spreading too much during baking. 

Additionally, the high sides of the pan help contain any juices or glazes added to the meatloaf, ensuring that it stays moist and flavorful.

Meatloaf Pan Substitution

What If I Don’t Have a Meatloaf Pan? 

As someone with a small kitchen, I want always to be mindful of your kitchen storage.

I’m showing a simple, budget-friendly alternative that will yield delicious results without excess grease. Here’s what you can do:

If you find yourself without a dedicated meatloaf pan, you can achieve delicious results with a simple workaround. Here’s what to do:

Prepare Your Setup: Place a standard cooling rack on a rimmed baking sheet. This setup will elevate the meatloaf and allow excess grease to drain during baking.

Create a Foil Mold: Tear pieces of foil, roughly the size of a loaf pan, to lay on top of the cooling rack. Ensure that the foil extends over the edges of the rack to contain the meatloaf mixture.

Prevent Sticking: Spray the foil with cooking spray to prevent the meatloaf from sticking during baking.

Meatloaf Pan Substitution

Poke Draining Holes in the Foil:  Using a wooden skewer,  poke holes to drain the grease from the loaf. These holes will allow the excess grease to drain away and collect on the baking sheet below.

Bake as Directed: Once your setup is ready, shape your meatloaf mixture on the foil-lined cooling rack according to your recipe’s instructions.

The Best Gluten-Free Meatloaf Recipe

What If I Don’t Like This  Meatloaf Glaze?

For an Italian twist on your gluten-free meatloaf, use canned tomato sauce instead of the sweet glaze. 

This easy swap adds a savory flavor that perfectly matches the meatloaf’s rich taste. 

I prefer how tomato sauce brings in acidity and is more reminiscent of my favorite Italian meals.

Follow the instructions for the gluten-free meatloaf recipe, but substitute with an 8-ounce can of tomato sauce and season with your favorite spices like garlic powder, onion powder, basil, and salt. 

What Are the Best Sides for Meatloaf?

If you have a box of instant potatoes, you can make those.

I love to add fresh ingredients like a scoop of creamy Borisin cheese, fresh chives, or sour cream to elevate this pantry ingredient. 

Other options: Roast frozen green beans, these oven-roasted baby potatoes, or this easy make-ahead mashed potatoes recipe that can be tucked in the freezer for busy weeknights.

Can I Freeze This Gluten-Free Meatloaf?

Yes, you can freeze this gluten-free meatloaf both before and after baking. 

To freeze before baking, prepare the meatloaf as per the recipe, but stop before baking. 

Wrap the uncooked meatloaf tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil, and place it in a freezer-safe bag or container. 

When you’re ready to bake, thaw it in the refrigerator overnight before cooking as directed.

To freeze after baking, allow the cooked meatloaf to cool completely. Then, wrap it securely in plastic wrap, followed by aluminum foil, or place it in a freezer-safe bag or container. 

To reheat, thaw the meatloaf in the refrigerator overnight and then reheat in the oven until it is heated through. 

When freezing make sure to label with the date. Whichever preparation you choose for freezing, this gluten-free meatloaf can be frozen for up to 3 months.

Looking for more gluten free recipes for easy dinners? Here are three of our favorites:

The Best Gluten-Free Meatloaf Recipe

The Best Gluten-Free Meatloaf Recipe

Yield: 8 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

This traditional meatloaf recipe has a tangy glaze that reminds me of my childhood. The secret ingredient is a box of instant mashed potatoes from your pantry.


  • ½ cup ketchup
  • ¼ cup packed light brown sugar
  • 4 teaspoons cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 onions, chopped fine
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme or ½ teaspoon dried
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup milk of choice
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons gluten-free Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • ⅓ cup potato flakes
  • ⅓ cup minced fresh parsley
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 pound lean ground beef (85 percent lean)


  1. Adjust the oven rack to the upper-middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare a 9 Inch x 5 Inch meatloaf pan with cooking spray.  
  2. Stir ketchup, sugar, and vinegar in a bowl and set aside.
  3. Heat oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onions and cook until softened about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and thyme and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool for 5 minutes.
  4. Whisk in eggs, milk, mustard, Worcestershire, salt and pepper. Stir in potato flakes and parsley. Add pork and knead with hands until thoroughly combined. Add beef and continue to knead until uniform.
  5. Transfer the meat mixture to your prepared pan. Brush half of the ketchup mixture over the meatloaf. Bake meatloaf in preheated oven for 40 minutes.
  6. Brush meatloaf with remaining ketchup mixture and continue to bake until the internal temperature reaches 160°F, 30 to 35 minutes. 
  7. Let the meatloaf cool for 15 minutes before slicing and serving with your favorite side dishes.


Please see instructions in the post for how to prepare gluten-free meatloaves on a sheet pan if you do not have a meatloaf pan.

You can substitute this sweet topping with an 8-ounce can of tomato sauce mixed with your favorite Italian seasonings for a different flavor profile.

Recommended Products

As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 399Total Fat: 22gSaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 12gCholesterol: 151mgSodium: 569mgCarbohydrates: 16gFiber: 1gSugar: 11gProtein: 34g

Looking for more gluten free recipes for easy dinners? Here are three of our favorites:

Gluten-Free Orange Chicken– This takeout recipe is thickened with gluten-free flour or cornstarch. The fresh orange sauce makes this recipe a family favorite.

Gluten-Free Meatballs– This meatball recipe can be served over your favorite gluten-free pasta, on your favorite gluten-free bun, or as an appetizer.

Gluten-Free Pad Thai– Pick your favorite protein and enjoy this takeout treat at home. This is a great way to use up frozen shrimp in the freezer!

TELL ME: What did you think of this gluten-free meatloaf recipe?

Recipe updated: February 21, 2024

Pin It

The Best Electric Fireplaces With Heaters For Small Homes

Tuesday, February 20th, 2024

Discover the benefits of electric fireplaces with heaters as an affordable and beautiful way to upgrade any corner. We share the top designs for small spaces.

The Best Electric Fireplaces With Heaters For Small Homes

Our family decided to install a faux fireplace in our home a decade ago, and it remains one of our best investments.

It is also the space in our home that is most remarked upon because of its unusual location. 

This fireplace is nestled in our subbasement, adding warmth to our chilly basement and a cozy corner to read a good book. 

The Best Electric Fireplaces With Heaters For Small Homes

Remarkably, after a decade of use, the only maintenance required has been replacing the fireplace bulbs after daily use, which is cheerfully glowing in our home office. I can even attest to my pom-pom garland still going strong!

Today, I wanted to share why an electric fireplace heater can be a wise investment and what I wish I had known before installing one in our house. 

What is an Electric Fireplace?

An electric fireplace is a heating appliance that simulates the appearance and ambiance of a traditional wood-burning or gas fireplace without needing a chimney or venting system. 

Instead of burning wood or gas, electric fireplaces use electricity to power LED lights and heating elements that create the illusion of flames and emit heat.

Electric fireplaces typically consist of a mantel, firebox, and heating unit.

But as we show below, they can come in surprisingly fun designs and add additional storage to your home.

How Does an Electric Fireplace Work?

Some units are freestanding and can be placed anywhere in a room, while others are designed to be wall-mounted or inserted into existing fireplaces for a more seamless look.

Electric fireplaces use electricity to power LED lights and heating elements that simulate flames and generate heat.

Some models, like ours, allow you to adjust the flame intensity and heat output for customized comfort.

The Best Electric Fireplaces With Heaters For Small Homes

Do Electric Fireplaces With Heaters Really Warm a Room?

The amount of heat electric fireplaces produce can vary depending on the model and specifications.

Generally, electric fireplaces are designed to provide supplemental heat to a room rather than serve as the primary heating source.

That said, this pumps out a SURPRISING amount of heat.

On average, electric fireplaces can produce anywhere from 4,000 to 9,000 BTUs (British Thermal Units) of heat per hour.

However, it’s essential to note that the heat output can be adjustable on many models, allowing users to customize the level of warmth according to their preferences.

Additionally, some electric fireplaces come with built-in thermostats and timers, allowing for precise temperature control and automated operation.

Our unit has a dial to adjust warmth to our desired temperature. It is even possible to blow cool air when dialed down while viewing the unit’s faux flames.

This unit also offered the option just to have the electric flame on so we could create a cozy room without the heat. 

While electric fireplaces may generate less heat than traditional wood-burning or gas fireplaces, they offer several advantages, including energy efficiency, safety, and convenience. 

Electric fireplaces are an excellent option for adding cozy warmth and ambiance to any space without venting or the hassle of maintaining a traditional fireplace.

The Best Electric Fireplaces With Heaters For Small Homes

When deciding where to put an electric fireplace with heater, there are several factors to consider:

Room Size and Layout: 

Evaluate the size and layout of the room where you plan to install the fireplace. Choose a location where the fireplace can serve as a focal point and complement the overall design and flow of the space. 

Consider the heating capacity of the electric fireplace and how it will meet the heating needs of the room.

Place the fireplace in a central location to distribute heat evenly throughout the space.

Electrical Accessibility: 

Make sure that the chosen location has access to electrical outlets to power the fireplace.

Consider consulting with an electrician to ensure an older home can handle the power required to run an electric fireplace. 

In our older home, for example, it can switch off if a vacuum is also running on that same breaker. We weren’t aware of it when adding this to our home. 

Aesthetic Appeal of Electric Fireplaces With Heaters

Choose a location for the electric fireplace that enhances the room’s visual appeal and complements your existing decor and furnishings.

Consider placing the fireplace in a prominent spot where it can be enjoyed from multiple vantage points.

The only downside to this design is that it isn’t the real deal with crackling wood and cozy embers, but it’s a beautiful artificial substitute, especially for small spaces that need a little coziness.

The Best Electric Fireplaces With Heaters For Small Homes

This is how our laminate fireplace looked after assembling.

While I loved the cozy vibes of this piece, I knew the fireplace could look even better with a fresh coat of paint to brighten it up and hide its laminate wood construction.

You can read my How to Paint Laminate Furniture guide that can instantly elevates any of these fireplace options, including MINE!  

Since I wrote this tutorial, we have had this electric fireplace for a decade now, and the bulbs are the only thing we have had to replace.

To enhance this space, we added a Kamika Perry painting– an incredible local talent from South Bend, Indiana.

I can attest- this is one of our most loved spaces in our home after all these years. If you would like to explore an option like this for your home, I’ve got some great ideas!

The Best Electric Fireplaces With Heaters For Small Homes

This list offers the best types of electric fireplace options to research for your small space.

As suppliers change and move quickly in the furniture market, these selections will put you on a landing page for each style option.

Remember, you can customize any design with paint, so let your imagination go wild!

Here are a few answers to commonly asked questions about electric fireplaces with heaters:

What is the difference between Electric Fireplace vs. Space Heater?

The main difference between an electric fireplace and a space heater is their design and purpose. 

An electric fireplace is designed to mimic the appearance of a traditional fireplace, complete with a flame effect, and often includes mantels or decorative features.

While they both provide supplemental heat, this option offers a focal point for your room. 

On the other hand, a space heater is designed solely for heating purposes, usually featuring a compact and portable design.

Space heaters are portable warmth often used to heat specific areas or rooms. 

While both can help keep you warm, choosing between an electric fireplace and a space heater depends on what your room needs.

Stamped Concrete Fire Pit
Stamped Concrete Fire Pit

Can I Use an Electric Fireplace Outdoors? 

Electric fireplaces are typically designed for indoor use and may not be suitable for outdoor installation. Your best option for outdoors is an outdoor fire pit or table or propane heater.

At our house, we had a stamped concrete fire pit installed.

Between that and renovating a shed, we have created a permanently cozy spot outdoors.

Exposure to the elements, such as rain, snow, and extreme temperatures, can damage an electric fireplace’s electrical components and materials, leading to safety hazards and reduced lifespan.

How Do You Clean an Electric Fireplace?

To clean an electric fireplace, turn off the unit and cool completely.

Remove any dust or debris from the exterior using a soft brush or microfiber cloth.

For the interior, gently vacuum or brush away any loose debris, being careful not to damage the heating elements or wiring.

If applicable, use a damp cloth to wipe down the interior surfaces, including the glass front and logs or crystals. 

As most units are enclosed, we have only had to do this once. 

Finally, carefully reassemble the unit and plug it back in, ensuring all connections are secure. Regular cleaning will help maintain the appearance and efficiency of your electric fireplace for years to come.

I hope this idea can create a joyful and cozy reading corner for your home!

If you are looking for more ideas, don’t miss our incredible guide- The Best Tools for Cozy Reading With Chronic Pain that offer ideas for making this space as supportive to your body as possible.

TELL ME: If you have any experience with an electric fireplace, let us know! Would you consider this a heating option for your home?

How to Paint Laminate Furniture Without Sanding

Tuesday, February 20th, 2024
How to Paint Laminate Furniture Without Sanding

Learn how to paint laminate furniture without sanding! Whether you plan to paint Ikea laminate furniture or a fireplace like us- you need this easy tutorial!

Laminate furniture often has a reputation for looking cheap. Let’s be honest- that faux grain finish does not fool anyone!

However, a simple paint job can completely transform and elevate any piece in your home in a single day, and I would love to show you how.  

How to Paint Laminate Furniture Without Sanding

Today’s painting tutorial is an excellent technique to try on new pieces.

Fresh paint can also cover up scratches, discoloration, and other imperfections on furniture you already own.  

Painting pieces to match can make a room feel cohesive. And as our decorating styles evolve, we can choose any color or finish to match where you are at NOW with your style.

What has surprised me about this process is just how easy it is.

How to Paint Laminate Furniture Without Sanding

For today’s tutorial, we will paint the electric fireplace that I featured in this guide- The Best Electric Fireplaces With Heaters

I’m excited to share with you how to make this laminate piece look more expensive than it is with a coat of paint- NO SANDING REQUIRED.

This comprehensive guide will walk you through the step-by-step process of painting laminate furniture without sanding, including the materials you’ll need and expert tips for achieving professional-looking results.

How to Paint Laminate Furniture Without Sanding

Here is a picture of our fireplace TEN YEARS after we painted it. There is no nick or chip in sight, so you are in wonderful hands today!

Understanding Laminate Furniture

Before diving into the painting process, it’s essential to understand what laminate furniture is and why it requires special preparation.

Laminate furniture is made of particleboard or MDF (medium-density fiberboard) covered with a thin layer of laminate. This synthetic material mimics the look of wood, stone, or other textures. 

This laminate layer can challenge paint adhesion, as it is smooth, non-porous, and moisture-resistant.

To paint laminate furniture without sanding, you will need a special primer, latex paint, and water-based acrylic to finish. You can scroll down to see the complete step-by-step instructions.

FAQs on Painting Laminate Furniture Without Sanding:

What is Zinnser primer?

Zinsser primer is a shellac based primer that acts as a versatile base primer for various surfaces, including laminate furniture.

This primer sticks effectively to surfaces without sanding, making it an ideal choice for prepping laminate furniture for painting. This is a top coat for your project, but you may need more than one coat depending on your furniture piece.

What kind of paint do you use on laminate furniture?

It’s essential to use really high-quality paint when painting furniture.

Latex paint is recommended for laminate surface painting projects because of its durability and smooth finish, and we have had the best success with the Benjamin Moore brand.

Many of our projects have stood up to over a decade of use without any need for retouching.

Can This Tutorial Be Used With Chalk Paint?

Yes, you can use chalk paint on laminate furniture, but I have yet to do this personally and can only provide instructions on what I’ve read elsewhere. You may not achieve the glossy results that I’ve shared today.

Follow the same steps I’ve outlined.

Once your primer is dry, you can paint your laminate furniture with chalk paint.

Keep in mind this paint will offer a matte finish.  

Be sure to add a protective topcoat to ensure durability, especially if the furniture will see regular use.

What Fireplace Paint Did You Use For This Project? 

This color is Benjamin Moore White Owl, the white paint we use in our home’s trim and furniture pieces. This piece from Architectural Digest showcases the versatility of the color and why it has become such a go-to white paint color choice! 

Do you have to sand laminate furniture before painting?

As we shared in this tutorial, using a product like Zinsser Primer eliminates the need to prime your laminate furniture. This bonding primer is designed for laminate furniture projects like this one and is a great option for Ikea furniture or painting laminate cabinets in your home. 

Can I Use Oil-Based Acrylic On Laminate Furniture?

We learned the hard way that using an oil-based acrylic finish on white furniture can lead to undesirable yellowing over time. 

Two dressers I had finished began to slowly turn yellow, a devastating DIY mistake that meant I had to repaint our pieces to restore the white color. 

Oil-based acrylic finishes contain ingredients prone to oxidation, a chemical process that can cause the paint to develop a yellowish hue when exposed to light and air. 

Additionally, oil-based acrylic finishes may take longer to cure and harden compared to water-based alternatives, leaving the furniture vulnerable to damage and staining during the curing process.

As a result, the finish may not provide adequate protection against everyday wear and tear, making the furniture more susceptible to scratches, stains, and other forms of damage.

I ALWAYS recommend a water-based acrylic finish or clear protective coating to prevent yellowing.

How to Paint Laminate Furniture Without Sanding: A Step-by-Step Guide

Materials Needed:

  1. Zinsser Primer
  2. Latex Paint 
  3. Water Based Polycrylic in Clear Satin (no substitutions- this product will not yellow your furniture)
  4. Drop Cloth
  5. Foam Roller
  6. Paint Brush


  1. Apply Zinsser Primer:
    • Clean the laminate surface thoroughly to remove any dirt or grease.
    • Apply a coat of Zinsser Primer to the surface using a paintbrush or foam roller.
    • Ensure even coverage and allow the primer to dry completely, usually within an hour or two of time.
  2. Apply Paint:
    • Once the primer is dry, apply your chosen paint color (see the suggestion below for my favorite white paint option)
    • Use a paintbrush or foam roller to apply the paint in thin, even coats.
    • One coat may be sufficient, but additional coats may be needed for full coverage or touch-ups.
  3. Finish with Polycrylic:
    • Once the paint is dry, apply two coats of Polycrylic in a Clear Satin finish, giving your piece a slick, smooth finish using a clean paintbrush or foam brush to apply evenly.  
    • Allow each coat of Polycrylic to dry for two hours before reapplying.
    • After applying the final coat, allow the piece to dry overnight before using or moving it.
How to Paint Laminate Furniture from
How to Paint Laminate Furniture from

How Do I Keep Laminate Furniture Clean?

While painted laminate furniture can be durable, it must be treated carefully to prevent chipping, scratching, or other damage. 

Avoid placing hot or heavy objects directly on the surface, and use coasters or protective pads as needed.

To clean painted laminate furniture, use a mild detergent, water solution, and a soft cloth or sponge. Avoid abrasive cleaners or scouring pads, which can damage the finish of your piece. 

I can’t wait to hear how your first project goes!

Paint Laminate Furniture Without Sanding Furniture Ideas

Here are a few examples of furniture pieces you could try as a great beginner project for painting laminate furniture. 

This post contains affiliate links.
How to Spray Paint Furniture

Love this tutorial don’t miss these other fun painting and staining projects:

How to Paint a Kitchen Table– Revitalize your kitchen table with a coat of paint. Discover easy steps to give your dining area a new lease on life.

How to Spray Paint Furniture– Upgrade your furniture with a professional finish using spray paint. Follow simple instructions to achieve a flawless makeover for any piece.”

Stain Picnic Table Tutorial– Enhance outdoor gatherings by staining your picnic table with this tutorial. Explore the process to protect your outdoor wood furniture so you can use it year after year. 

How to Stain Wood Furniture– Bring new life to your furniture by staining it. Follow these straightforward steps to add rich color and depth to your favorite pieces.

TELL ME: Did you have success with this painting project? What has been your experience painting laminate wood?

Pin It

How Shark Heart Transformed Emily Habeck and Her Readers

Thursday, February 15th, 2024

Emily Habeck discusses her widely imaginative debut novel, Shark Heart, and how this writing project transformed her life and the lives of her readers.

How Shark Heart Transformed Emily Habeck and Her Readers

It’s no secret that Shark Heart was my favorite debut of the year, and today’s meaningful author conversation only solidified this moving reading experience.

We discuss the unusual overlap to our love stories and the other surprising emotional connections readers have made to this imagined world.

Emily’s success in literary fiction was a surprise, but the reason for her jump from screenplay writing to a novel may surprise you with how she ended up here.

Drawing from her theatrical background, Habeck shares more about her unique story structure and how magical realism can still offer the reader a grounded experience.

The Best Magical Realism Books to Read Now

Discover today’s BONUS BOOK LIST with 29 magical realism books for your book stack this month.

Emily joins our patron space to discuss the Shark Heart ending with surprising candidness on some of this story’s more unusual paths she chose, but even more so, the ways she DIDN’T decide to go to get to this book’s ending.

You will receive this episode AND today’s book list as a thank you for supporting my show.

Emily Habeck Author of Shark Heart

Meet Emily Habeck

Emily Habeck has a BFA in Theater from Southern Methodist University’s Meadows School of the Arts as well as master’s degrees from Vanderbilt Divinity School and Vanderbilt’s Peabody College.

Her debut novel Shark Heart was a Book of the Month selection, a New York Times book review editor’s choice, and the #1 Indie Next pick for August 2023.

She is from Ardmore, Oklahoma and currently lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Shark Heart by Emily Habeck

Discover Shark Heart by Emily Habeck

A shocking discovery unfolds in Lewis and Wren’s first year of marriage, a time that should be rooted in great happiness.  Lewis is diagnosed with a rare condition that gradually turns him into a shark in this story’s wildly imaginative plot.

As he struggles with his diagnosis and evolving transformation, Wren rises to meet these daily challenges in moving ways. She is no stranger to genetic mutations and how quickly her world can evolve and readers uncover a stunning backstory to Wren’s journey. 

But as Lewis’s new shark existence takes over, readers are taken on an equally meaningful adventure with an unlikely accomplice that the reader will never expect. 

How Shark Heart Transformed Emily Habeck and Her Readers

Listen to the Book Gang Podcast:

Listen below or listen on your favorite podcast listening platform!

Mentioned in this episode:

Join the Book Gang Patreon

Meet the NEW 2024 MomAdvice Book Club Books

Banyan Moon by Thao Thai

The Best Debut Novels of 2023

Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt

Shark Heart by Emily Habeck

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

The Candy House by Jennifer Egan

The Vegetarian by Han Kang

Nightbitch by Rachel Yoder

Connect With Us:

Subscribe to my FREE Happy List Newsletter

Connect With Emily on Instagram or her Website

Connect with Amy on Instagram, on TikTok, or MomAdvice

Buy Me a Coffee (for a one-time donation) pays a 10% commission on every sale and matches 10% to independent bookstores

The Best Magical Realism Books to Read Now

Thursday, February 15th, 2024

Browse my curated selection of the best magical realism books. Today’s book list includes new releases, our top book club picks, and classics to check out now.

The Best Magical Realism Books from

If you missed the Book Gang podcast with author Emily Habeck, we discuss her moving literary fiction book, Shark Heart.  

Emily Habeck shares the surprising journey from writing Hollywood screenplays to novel writing and her unbelievable success and connection to readers worldwide. It’s an hour with the author that I don’t want you to miss. 

Listen to the full episode below and subscribe to the Book Gang podcast for more episodes like this one. Please note that the show notes are located here.

What is a Magical Realism Book?

Today’s show discusses magical realism and how a writer can make that experience grounded for a reader. 

If you are new to magical realism, these books mix fantasy into everyday life, making fantastical things part of the real world.

The difference between magical realism vs fantasy books can sometimes feel confusing as a reader.

Fantasy books create brand new worlds or settings where magical elements are expected and central to the plot.

That’s not to say there isn’t overlap between these worlds.

If you have been a reader here a long time, you know these magical books are my favorite.

Today’s book list might have been the easiest I’ve ever done, except for my difficulty narrowing them down for you. 

If you love this book list, you can support my work through a one-time donation on Buy Me a Coffee or join our Patreon community for book fun all year long.

Patrons will receive a free printable copy checklist for today’s magical assignment. The financial support helps us keep the lights on in our online space.

The Best Magical Realism Books to Read Now

These are my favorite magical realism titles, including my favorite picks for book clubs, the best books I've read over my many years of reading, and a fun new selection of new-release books that I can't wait to dig into.


Get ready for magical turns in these new-release books that I'm excited to read with you!


These books have been among my favorites of the years including under-the-radar books that deserve a little more love.


This a collection of reader favorites including several I've fallen in love with over the years.


As a book club leader, these are the best books we read and loved in the MomAdvice Book Club. You can also see what we are up to in 2024- join now.


The classic books to read include books readers have loved over the years, including modern classic selections.

What do YOU think are the best magical realism books? Let us know in the comments below what this list is missing!

The Best Debut Novels of 2023 to Not Miss

Tuesday, February 13th, 2024

Discover the best debut novels of 2023. From coming-of-age to multigenerational stories to a great love story- we have you covered in this book list!

The Best Debuts of 2023 from

We are celebrating the best debut novels of 2023 as we celebrate the publishing journey of author Thao Thai, whose multigenerational debut novel, Banyan Moon transports her readers to Vietnam and Florida. 

Thao Thai shares moving details from the family history she wanted to weave into her stunning debut on the Book Gang podcast.

As we explore her favorite memories of her grandparents and the stunning Vietnamese folk tales that peppered her childhood, she shares what elements of her family legacy were most important to capture on a page.

Listen to the full episode (the show notes are located here) below and subscribe to the Book Gang podcast for more episodes like this one.

In honor of today’s discussion, I’m sharing my favorite books from 2023.

While you can find many book lists online, the one thing that makes my list special is that these are tried-and-true book recommendations. I value your reading time! 

Make sure you don’t skip the final part of this list that showcases the best books according to our book club members. I’m really excited to get my hands on those recommendations.

If you love this list, you can support my work through a one-time donation on Buy Me a Coffee or join our Patreon community for book fun all year long. The financial support helps us keep the lights on in our online space. I’m so grateful for you.


Many of today’s authors have published in other genres.

A book listed as a debut can mean a debut in a different genre.

For example, if a Young Adult writer writes their first Adult novel, it would qualify as a debut. If a thriller writer writes her first Women’s Fiction, that is a debut. This information is added in their book descriptions.

The Best Debuts of 2023 from

The Best Debut Novels of 2023 to Not Miss

Don't miss out on the best debut novels of 2023. From fantasy to historical fiction to coming-of-age stories, these are my top recommendations for your reading life.

Looking for more books from debut novelists? Here is a short list from the MomAdvice Book Club community.

You Should Smile More by Anastasia Ryan

Adelaide by Genevieve Wheeler

The Bandit Queens by Parini Shroff

Late Bloomers by Deepa Varadarajan

The Collected Regrets of Clover by Mikki Brammer

Beyond That, the Sea by Laura Spence-Ash

What is your favorite 2023 debut novel? Let us know in the comments below what this list is missing!

love this post? don’t miss our FREE 2023 Summer Reading Guide!

This post contains affiliate links

How to Paint Plastic Eggs for Easter

Friday, February 9th, 2024

Learn how to paint plastic eggs for a fun spin on Easter egg decorating for kids. These dyeable plastic eggs can be used year after year unlike real eggs!

The Dyeable Plastic Eggs Tutorial You Need Now

Did you know that you can paint and dye plastic eggs to look just like the real deal? Well, now you do! Today, we’re diving into the world of decorating plastic eggs and, most importantly, how to avoid colorful hands afterward.

These dyeable plastic eggs offer a delightful twist to traditional Easter egg decorating for kids. You can find them in the seasonal section of stores, offering a reusable option for Easter décor year after year. Plus, unlike real eggs, they won’t spoil or need refrigeration!

Where to Buy Dyeable Plastic Eggs

These new dyeable plastic eggs can be found over in the seasonal section of stores and are made from 100% recyclable plastic. Just remember to pick up a paint kit or acrylic paint set if your egg set does not include paint.

Why Choose Dyeable Plastic Eggs

Unlike the shiny, brightly colored eggs typically used for egg hunts, these plastic eggs have a unique brushed exterior that almost feels like wood.

Made from lightweight, 100% recyclable plastic, they’re durable and won’t crack as easily as their traditional counterparts.

The Dyeable Plastic Eggs Tutorial You Need Now

The Dyeable Plastic Eggs Tutorial You Need Now
How to Dye Plastic Eggs

What Do We Love About the Plastic Decorating Eggs?

I love decorating eggs with my kids, but when we do it, I wish that I could keep them longer without them spoiling or needing refrigeration. We also ran into instances of little hands being excited to dump their eggs in the dye, often resulting in cracked eggs.

Unlike the shiny brightly colored eggs we use for our egg hunts, these almost feel like a wooden egg with a brushed exterior, yet are lightweight since they are made from a lightweight plastic.

There is a small seam that can be seen in my close-up pictures, but it does not break open like the neon plastic eggs.

The Dyeable Plastic Eggs Tutorial You Need Now
The Dyeable Plastic Eggs Tutorial You Need Now

Experimenting with different decorating techniques is part of the fun! While dunking the eggs in dye might not work well due to their lightweight nature, painting them yields vibrantly beautiful results.

Consider using egg painting kits for a hassle-free decorating experience.

Let your creativity run wild! Whether it’s speckled eggs, sponge painting, or golden glaze, there are endless possibilities to explore.

Encourage the kids to unleash their imagination and create their own unique masterpieces.

In our house, we tried a couple of different techniques with these dyeable plastic eggs.

When attempting our Kool-Aid dying we found that the eggs did not absorb the dye well.

Painting our eggs with an egg painting kit, however, yielded vibrantly beautiful eggs. We combined the sponge technique with the golden glaze, and let the kids create their own masterpieces.

The Dyeable Plastic Eggs Tutorial You Need Now
The Dyeable Plastic Eggs Tutorial You Need Now
How to Dye Plastic Eggs
The Dyeable Plastic Eggs Tutorial You Need Now

Here are the eggs we created with our kits. Some of the most beautiful eggs actually resulted from dyed fingerprints that added color and texture to them.

My daughter loved doing the speckled eggs, while my son painted his fully with a brush.

We let them dry in the carton and they now have a spot in our front room in a bowl to be admired all season long.

I would recommend these dyeable eggs for little hands that have a hard time handling delicate eggs, children with egg allergies, and moms that might like to keep their decorated eggs from year to year.

Remove Dye From Skin

That was a messy job so I am sharing our tried-and-true recipe for removing egg dye & paint off of your hands.

We can attest to this formula as we may or may not have used everything in our house from rubbing alcohol to oil to try to figure out how to get the pesky dye of our hands.

Smarter people might wear gloves while decorating. We risk it all for our art. That’s how we roll.

How to Remove Dye From Skin

1 squirt whitening toothpaste

1 squirt face or body exfoliant

1 squirt baby oil

Scrub well. Add a little water and continue scrubbing. Rinse. Repeat as necessary.

Maybe three times if you look like a Smurf.

The Dyeable Plastic Eggs Tutorial You Need Now
How to Remove Food Coloring From Skin (or Dye)

This post contains affiliate links.

Pin It