Archive for the ‘Entertaining’ Category

How to Check Out Library Books on Your Kindle for Free

Monday, July 29th, 2019

 

Did you know that you can check out books for free just using your library card? Today I wanted to share a quick tutorial on how to borrow Kindle ebooks through your public library for free. 

Don’t have a Kindle device? 

That’s okay! 

You can also get books for free using a simple Kindle reading app on your phone or tablet. 

The reason I wanted to share this is because when I bought my Kindle Paperwhite (this is what I read on!), I had the hardest time figuring out how to borrow these books from their lending library and how to get those books that I ordered to move over to my Kindle device.

To me, it just wasn’t an intuitive process so today’s post is for anyone else who has struggled borrowing books on their Amazon Kindle or Fire tablet.

Step One: Get a Library Card

If you want to begin checking out Kindle books, you will need to begin with getting a library card from your local library. This card number is what you will use to access your account and allows you to get these free Kindle library books and audiobooks for free. 

When you get this card, you are typically assigned a pin that you will then use to access the Overdrive app that allows you to search for the books that you are interested in. If you have trouble figuring out a great library pin number, a local librarian offered the tip to make your pin the last four digits of your library card so you never forget it.

This is a great time to just confirm that your library is participating in Overdrive and also to ask about any other apps that might be available to you for digital lending. It is HIGHLY likely that your library is participating since over 11,000 libraries now offer this option. 

Step Two: Download the Overdrive Library App

Once you have confirmed that your library is participating, you will need to download the Overdrive Library App to your phone or tablet. If you do not want to use a mobile device, you can also access it online through your desktop. 

My library homepage, for example, is linked to Overdrive so I can just search directly on my desktop. 

Step Three: Sign Into Your Overdrive App

Once you have installed the app, you will select Sign Up Using Library Card  (or sign in using library card).

At this point, you will be able to search for your local library name or location. Select this library once you find it. You will want to search for the overall local library system (the county name) versus just the local branch you use.

You will then be prompted to add your library card information and pin number that you were assigned. Once you are signed in, it is time to start searching for digital books and audiobooks.

Step Four: Select and Check Out Your Books

I wanted to walk you through the step-by-step process of checking out the books, once you have the Overdrive app installed. This is where I got confused because I didn’t understand how the book was supposed to magically appear on my Kindle Paperwhite. 

Begin by searching for the book that you would like to borrow. You can search by title or author. Be sure that you are searching for the Kindle format and not the ePub because the Kindle format is what you will be reading on your Kindle device or through the Kindle app. 

Once you find your book, click BORROW to borrow this book.  Once you borrow it, you will be prompted for the timespan you would like to borrow this book for.

Make sure that you adjust this, especially if you need more time to read so you aren’t at risk of giving it up if it can’t be renewed. I always adjust my time to 21 days so I can enjoy the maximum length for borrowing times. 

Step Five: Sign Into Your Amazon Account and Borrow the Book

Once you have clicked that you want to borrow a book on the Overdrive app, it will automatically redirect you to your Amazon account to sign in. Sign into your account and then this screen will appear where it says, “Get Library Book.”  

As you can see in my screenshot, it is defaulting to the device that I use most (Amy’s 5th Kindle)…yes, we do own five in our house. 

Don’t you judge me. 

Once this has been clicked, you will find the book on your Kindle Paperwhite, Kindle Fire, or in your Kindle app on your phone or tablet. 

Step Six: Complete the Book Download

Now that you can see the book on your chosen destination, click on it to download it. You will need to have wifi to complete this step so be sure you do this at home, if you might be traveling.

Once the download is complete, you can begin reading your book. 

Step Seven: Return Your Book When You Finish 

The other thing that often confuses people is how to return your book through the library reading apps. Honestly, you don’t need to necessarily return them when you finish because once your book expires, it will automatically remove itself from your Kindle. 

Overdrive does have book limits though so if you want to check out more, you might need to return your book to do that. 

Head to your Amazon account and then to the, “Manage Your Content and Devices,” page. You will see the book(s) you have borrowed and you can click the Actions tab next to it.

As shown in this screenshot, “Return This Book,” is one of these options.

Select that to return the book to the library. 

That’s it, you have successfully borrowed a book from the Kindle store and added it to your own personal library. 

Other FAQ About Borrowing Digitally

How do I renew my library books?

Is your Kindle (Paperwhite) library book expiring? Check this page for a step-by-step tutorial on how to renew that book

What other free reading apps might the library be connected with?

Looking for more free reading apps? 

Check your local library website or ask a librarian! Our library, for example, offers Libby, Hoopla, and Flipster

We can also checkout independent documentaries and films through the Kanopy app. 

This frugal girl loves a freebie so you know that I’m using ALL THE APPS.

What about free audiobooks from the library?

Did you know you can get audio books from the library for free? Borrowing audiobooks will differ depending on the type of device you are using to listen to them. The best resource for that will be this page that explains it step-by-step depending on your digital device you are using.

I usually just listen to them on my phone through the Overdrive app directly, but you might have other options depending on the device you are using. 

Where else can I read free books through my Kindle app or device?

First of all, if you are a Prime member, you can get a FREE book every single month!

Amazon Prime has a great program called, “Amazon First Reads,” that allows Prime members to shop for a book for free before it is released to the public. 

How cool is that? 

You can check this page each month for a free book

They also generously give you two books on certain months too. These aren’t throwaway books either. Some of my favorite novels have been from this Kindle First program.

Also, as a Prime member, you have access to the Kindle Lending Library where you can borrow books for free through Amazon. 

FYI- This is NOT the same as the Kindle Unlimited paid program (another confusing element to the Amazon services). 

You can access thousands of books for free through Prime and the offerings do change monthly. 

I would suggest signing up for their newsletters to stay up-to-date on the book offerings. They often send emails that warn you if a book is going to be removed from their Kindle Lending Library program and also lets you know when new books become available.

Project Gutenberg also offers over 59,000 books for free that you also can check out! 

I borrowed a book, but I’d love to have someone read it to me. How do I do that without buying or borrowing the audiobook version?

Did you know that Alexa can read your books to you?

NO JOKE. 

Keep in mind, this won’t be the beautifully narrated audiobook version, it will be Alexa reading to you. 

Get the scoop on what Alexa can read to you over here.

Why does my library not have new releases available to me?

This article might explain the issue better and the hurdles you may face securing a new release.

I want new books though. Where can I get them for cheap?

Check my deals page A.S.A.P. Bookmark this page and check back daily for the best Amazon steals and deals.

What Kindle book should I checkout next?

You will NEVER be bored again with reading because I’m here to guide you through every second of the way. Visit my book reviews section for the best reading material or join my FREE book club so you can find and discuss books with other bookworms! I even hosted an IN REAL LIFE reading retreat for our book club members

Still not enough book ideas? This MomAdvice Summer Reading Guide has you covered!

Have any questions about reading for free on your Kindle device or app? Leave them below and I will be happy to answer them. Happy FREE reading, everyone! 

Please note, this post contains affiliate links.

DIY Game Day Bar Cart

Tuesday, September 18th, 2018

Entertaining is my thing. There’s nothing I love more than getting friends and family together for a great time.

And with a certain important game day party coming up, I knew just what I wanted to assemble to show off for my guests — a game day bar cart!

My favorite bar cart in our home is actually a tool cart transformed into this super functional and fun bar cart, so you can make your own too!

For my cart design, I decided to keep parts of the original surface paired with a metallic shade, but you can personalize this to your own taste and color scheme.

Just follow along with step two on the inside of your bar cart and apply your choice of paint if you so choose.

DIY Bar Cart Made from a Tool Cart Tutorial



Supplies Needed

Metal Tool Cart (check here or here or here to pick your favorite)
2 cans Krylon Colormaster in Metallic Gold (indoor) Spray Paint
1 can Rust-Oleum Hammered Brown Spray Paint
1 Spray Paint Trigger (should be in the same aisle as the spray paint)
Sandpaper
Painter’s Tape (to tape off your wheels)
Gloves

Directions

1. Begin by removing all of the parts and lining them up on cardboard or a drop cloth for painting. You will want the trays on this piece to be upside down since we are only spray painting the exterior of the tray. This will not only save you time spray painting, but the cart already has a nice finish on it that is easy to wipe and clean.

2. Rough up the exterior with medium-grit sandpaper. This will help our gold paint adhere to this smooth surface better.

3. Apply the trigger handle to your spray paint can. If you haven’t used one of these before it is a life-changing spray painting tool that offers even coverage and saves your poor trigger finger for long projects.

Begin by shaking your can for 1-2 minutes and periodically during use. Hold the can 10” – 12” from your surface, and spray in sweeping motions from side to side with a slight overlap.

Apply multiple thin coats, wait one minute between each.

You can add a top coat, if you like, with a clear topcoat, but it does dull the metallic sheen from this paint.

I chose to leave it without the clear coat, because I like the roughness and loveliness of the sheen of this paint.

I did find that this does adhere a bit unevenly to the surface, but creates more of the hammered metal look that I was going for.

4. Remove the trigger handle and now place it on your hammered metal spray paint that we are using for the handles and wheels on our bar cart.

Using the same technique, hold the can 10” – 12” from your surface, and spray in sweeping motions from side to side with a slight overlap.

Allow these to dry fully and then flip to the other side to spray paint the flip-side of these.

5. Tape off your wheels as best as you can and spray paint these with the same spray paint.

Allow them to dry and then flip to the other side and spray paint the flip-side.

When you remove the tape, if any of the paint has gotten on the wheel, just use your sandpaper to rough up the wheel to remove the paint.

6. Assemble after your cart, and all of its parts, are fully dry.

Keep your spray paint handy for final touch-ups and use a piece of cardboard to block and protect the areas around where you need to touch-up.

Allow this to fully dry before loading it with your drinks.

DIY Game Day Bar Cart from MomAdvice.com

DIY Game Day Bar Cart from MomAdvice.com

Once everything is assembled and dried, you can add your beverages of choice!

I decided to add my favorite beers to the top shelf for easy access, along with garnishes and drink tools.

On the bottom shelf I have glasses and liquors that can be wheeled around as needed.

Feel free to add any additional decorations like small treats, a chalkboard sign to message for guests or paper creations sporting the colors of your favorite team. Most of all, have fun!

Need More Game Day Party Tips?

Keep decorations simple for your game day party

Faux grass can act as a tablecloth for your table and a simple pennant banner can be created with your team’s favorite colors.

Add some fun football trophies to decorate around the food to pull your table theme together.

Have guests make their own food

Make creating your own food fun for your guests by creating a sub or Panini sandwich station from an assortment breads, cheeses, cold cuts, and a variety of toppings for your guests.

Each person can customize their own sandwich with their favorite additions.

Don’t forget to add a few gourmet flavors like pesto, Gouda cheese, apple slices, smoked bacon or prosciutto, & brie to your toppings bar.

These gourmet toppings will take your ordinary sandwiches into extraordinary ones and each guest can create their own unique combination.

The same idea can be applied to a fun slider bar, soup topping bar, hot dog bar, or baked potato bar.

snag my slow cooker pumpkin chili recipe

Host a soup cookoff

Have guests bring a pot of their favorite soup to share for a soup cook-off.

Have guests place votes on their favorite and present the winner with one of your fun football trophies from your table display to take home as the champion.

Not only will this be a fun way to sample some new soup recipes, but it will also relieve you of having to create as many dishes for your big game day party.

Round out the meal

Round out your soup & sandwich menu with an easy cheese platter, dips, a vegetable tray, and a fruit tray. Make the easy dips to go with your favorite crackers, but save some time in the kitchen and visit the deli in your store to pick up a simple fruit or vegetable platter to add on the side to save time spent chopping in the kitchen.

Invest in some inexpensive plastic containers for game day leftovers and send goodie bags home with your guests so they can enjoy the leftovers all weekend long.

Don’t forget to give the guests that stick around to help clean up afterwards a Most Valuable Player award for their assistance with the kitchen clean-up.

Love this DIY project? Here are a few others I think you will enjoy!

rosé strawberry wine pops recipe

slow cooker pumpkin candles

diy thumbtack pumpkins

diy ottoman serving tray

fall burlap wreath

painting pumpkins with acrylic paints

How do you celebrate game days at your house? I’d love to hear your tips for entertaining!

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7 Tips for Hosting a Successful Book Club

Tuesday, June 19th, 2018

7 tips for a Successful Book Club from MomAdvice.com Thanks to my sponsor St Martin’s Press, I’m sharing about Kristin Hannah’s newest page-turner!

I joined my first book club when my children were small and I remember both how rewarding it felt to use my brain again and the challenges of carving time out to read. The beauty in being a part of that group though was that it pushed me to read books that were outside of my typical genre.

Historical fiction, for example, had never been on my radar until I joined a club.

Ironically, it is now my favorite genre.

Have you thought about hosting a book club? I have had the pleasure of hosting a local group and an online group and today I wanted to share 7 tips and strategies I’ve found for hosting a successful book club.

7 Tips for Hosting a Successful Book Club

1. Create Your Book Club Circle

Book clubs can be an opportunity to cultivate existing friendships or an opportunity to widen your net. If you don’t have an existing set of close friends, this can be a great way to get to know people from other contexts of your life.  Consider starting a group through your church, with your neighborhood friends, a mom’s group, with your coworkers,  your gym buddies, or as a way to get to know other moms at your child’s school.

Keep in mind, this club does not need to be just women either because men can add another dynamic to your book club discussions. If you have couples that you love to spend time with, for example, consider asking if they might like to meet up monthly for dinner and a book chat. I know that some of my best book discussions have happened when enjoying an evening with friends.

2.  Have an Organized Kickoff Meeting

The quickest way for a book club to fizzle out is to not have a plan and get your members involved.  With everyone’s busy schedules, it can be difficult to get a committed group and keep them committed for an entire year (or more).

In the past, our mimosa kickoff usually starts in September, once the kids have headed back to school. With a little more time in our schedules (sort of), it gives us a chance to regroup and make book selections. I ask each member to come with a book in mind and a month that they would like to host our chat. Allowing each person to make a selection and host gives everyone a chance to feel a part of things and allows the group leader to just micromanage the logistics.

7 Tips for Hosting a Success Book Club from MomAdvice.com

7 Tips for Hosting a Success Book Club from MomAdvice.com

3. Pick Books That Can Sustain a Discussion

The best books that we have talked about have meat to them and naturally cultivate an incredible discussion. Books with shallow plots are probably better for your beach bag than your book club discussion.

Stumped for a book selection this year?

Can I make a great recommendation for you?

As I disclosed earlier, I am partnering with St. Martin’s Press to share about Kristin Hannah’s latest novel and I TRULY believe this is a perfect pick for your book club reading.

I , honestly, would read anything Kristin Hannah writes, but her last few books have been among my favorite. The Great Alone is a contemporary coming-of-age story that is set in the seventies in rural Alaska.  In this story, a former POW father comes home from the Vietnam War completely mentally changed from his experiences there. His behavior and decision-making is wildly erratic and when a property becomes available in rural Alaska, he decides that they should seize the opportunity to live off the grid and make a different life for themselves.

Braving harrowing and life-threatening conditions is what it is all about and thirteen-year-old Leni is caught in the middle of it all as they attempt to carve a new life in the wild frontier.

Living off the grid is not all it is cracked up to be and neither is surviving the difficult Alaska winters.  Hannah writes so eloquently about this impossible marriage and the honest struggle of a Vietnam veteran.

As you can see, from my description alone, this has so many elements for discussion. The plot brings on the challenges of PTSD in veterans, what it is like to live with a mentally ill family member, homesteading (and if YOU could survive it), and if you would stay with your partner if they were putting your family through a potentially life-threatening lifestyle.

When I say that books have to have meat for discussion, you can be assured that there would be MUCH to talk about with, The Great Alone.

Look for books like these where the description alone showcases what kinds of ideas you could discuss in your book chats.

4. Don’t Be Afraid of Controversial Plots

One thing I have worried about is picking books that have controversial plots that might make people feel uncomfortable. What has surprised me though is that these are usually our very best discussions and that it is, truly, okay to have different viewpoints.

The way I lead these discussions though is that I ask that things are said with kindness and love, even if you don’t necessarily agree with one another. In an online discussion, I can swiftly delete comments that aren’t said with kindness, but that is a bit more tricky in an in-person book club.

Even in these tricky moments though, leading by asking everyone to be kind has always been a successful way to start a thoughtful conversation and I have never had any issues after stressing this importance.

It can be scary leading a controversial discussion, but I was surprised how it changed people’s viewpoints or hearing about someone’s personal story and why it made them feel differently than me. A recent discussion of a story on immigration, for example, lead to people sharing how it completely changed their viewpoint on the deportation process.

It makes me wish we had more kind and honest talks and how they could bring compassion to our discussions.

5. Prepare For Your Discussion

Discussion questions are so helpful to have, especially when first beginning your chats. I have found that selecting books with discussion questions already in place can be extremely helpful and relieve a lot of stress on leading a talk. The Great Alone, for example, already has a great discussion outlined for you.

I try to not limit our discussions to just outlined questions though. If it is a historical fiction book, for example, it helps to look up the true stories and images from that time in history. Reading or finding author interviews that explain why the author decided to write a book can also add a lot to a discussion.

6.  Have Each Host/Hostess Decide How They Want to Host

7 Tips for a Successful Book Club from MomAdvice.com

7 Tips for a Successful Book Club from MomAdvice.com

7 Tips for a Successful Book Club from MomAdvice.com

7 Tips for a Successful Book Club from MomAdvice.com

I am happiest when I am entertaining our friends and family. It brings me great joy to share my table with them and feed them my food. Since this book is set mostly outdoors, I set up our outdoor table for a discussion.

It doesn’t have to be complicated though. This meat and cheese board, for example, is a fun way to share food with your book club friends without even cooking.

Sharing book club in the morning? Change the charcuterie board to a bagel board and load it with bagels and toppings.

The truth is, most people don’t love entertaining. It may bring them great stress, they may hate cooking, or they may be juggling a huge plate of craziness and can’t possibly add one more thing to their plates.

I GET IT.

Let each host/hostess decide how, where, and when works for them.

Food is not required to have a gathering.

Cooking is not required to have a gathering.

Opening YOUR home up is not required to have a gathering.

Allow each person to choose their style of hosting however or wherever they want to do it.

Book club should be fun and not stressful!

7. It’s All Too Much? Try an Online Club!

Painfully introverted? Haven’t found your people? Working full-time? New to town? Homeschooling? Single mom? Full plate?

Adding one more thing to your agenda can be an impossible task when you already have so much going on. Online book clubs can be an incredible option for someone that desires a book club, but just can’t make that happen in their day-to-day life.

You can join the free MomAdvice Book Club and be a part of a monthly discussion all year long!

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

The Great Alone is available in stores now and is highly recommended for your next book club chat!

To learn more:

Visit Macmillan.com

Like Kristin Hannah on Facebook

Follow St. Martin’s Press on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram

Do you have a tip for hosting a successful book club? Let me know in the comments below!

Thanks to my sponsor St Martin’s Press. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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Look For The Helpers (Miracles From Heaven)

Monday, July 18th, 2016

Miracles-From-Heaven-Review

This post is sponsored by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. Thank you for supporting the companies that support our site!

Mr. Rogers said it best when he said,“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

It is a quote that has stuck with me for a very long time although I had not realized how much we would need our helpers until we had to call upon them this year. This year’s diagnosis has been tough on our family, but we have gotten through it because of the people that have been our helpers in our lives. Being one who refuses to ask for help (even when I really need it), my friends took it upon themselves to assist our family in the most generous of ways…through a random acts of kindness that would show up on our doorstep.

flowers

I was in crippling pain and extremely depressed.  I have been angry at God and frustrated by my body’s new limitations. One of my girlfriends saw what was happening and organized my friends to do a doorstep delivery each day. One day I came out to a pretty candle from a favorite shop, a gift card to Amazon to buy a book, beautiful stationery, flowers and a meal, a basket of gluten-free treats, a pail of sunshine (with items all in yellow), wine tucked in our mailbox, and fun snacks to enjoy with my wine. Each day, my spirits felt lifted. I felt really and truly loved.

sunshine

Not only did they make these gestures, but they kept me busy to help take my mind of the pain. I went for walks, I had friends to join me for yoga classes, coffee invitations, movie dates…It is amazing how much a social outing can pull one out of their slump. There was no time to fixate on my circumstances.

Luckily for me, these past two weeks have been magical thanks to a pill that we have finally found that is finally controlling my pain.

To me, that pill feels like a miracle.

My miracle pales in comparison to the incredible miracle featured in the movie, Miracles from Heaven though. The film, which was just released on DVD,  is based on the true story of the Beam family and their special little girl named Anna who is diagnosed with a very rare and incurable disease.  As if that family had not been through enough, Anna is involved in a terrible accident that should have killed her, but brought an unexpected miracle into their lives that helped to restore their faith.

My daughter & I had a movie day together to watch this one and it lead to a great discussion on our feelings about miracles and about turning away from God when you feel so angry. Although my situation has been mild in comparison, I still can acknowledge that there is anger when you don’t understand why God will let things like this happen.

What stood out to me more about this story though is that there were SO MANY helpers in that family’s life that got them through those difficult moments. Those helpers got their family through some of their most difficult moments from caring for their children to assisting with travel when they needed to be together to working Anna in with the top specialist to make sure she was cared for. Just like me, these helpers are what made many unbearable moments bearable and broke up that desperation that they were feeling.

Jennifer Garner

Jennifer Garner delivers a truly incredible performance as Anna’s mother. The emotion she is able to deliver is powerful, as is the mother’s determination to try to get the best care for her daughter. I don’t know how anyone could watch this and not be moved.

Miracles-From-Heaven-Review-3

If you haven’t checked out the film yet, you can pick up a copy of the DVD at Walmart for a family movie night together. If it is anything like our experience watching it, I am sure your kids will have lots of questions and it will give you a chance to talk about this family’s miracle.

For more information about, Miracles from Heaven, visit the Official Website, give them a Like on Facebook, & follow them on Twitter!

This post is sponsored by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. Thank you for supporting the companies that support our site!

Tips & Tricks for Evening Entertaining

Tuesday, May 17th, 2016

Tips & Tricks for Evening Entertaining from MomAdvice.com

This post is sponsored on behalf of BHG at Walmart.

Those summer nights…tell me more, tell me more.

Is it stuck in your head now too?

I think evening gatherings are the most fun to host and our patio always gets a workout in the summer months with friends and family gathering around our picnic table for meals, wine, and board games.

Also, a big shout out to night skies for hiding our not-so-awesome lawn.

Keeping it real here, friends! We can’t be good at everything!

Today I am partnering up with the BHG Live Better Network to show you some fun additions for your outdoor space AND I’m giving away a $100 gift card to Walmart to get you started on your shopping.

Tips & Tricks for Evening Entertaining

Tips & Tricks for Evening Entertaining from MomAdvice.com

Tips & Tricks for Evening Entertaining from MomAdvice.com

Bring on the Twinkle Lights

To me, one of the most beautiful sights in the evenings are strands of twinkle lights.

They are a super affordable way to dress up your patio without spending a lot of money.

Not only are they beautiful, but they help extend those evening hours outside to play games or enjoy a meal together.

You can see how we rigged our lights over our patio in this post.

Patio lights have a tendency to get shattered on our cement patio so I was REALLY excited about these vintage cage lantern lights because the cage helps protect that little bulb inside.

That should really help prolong those lights!

Tips & Tricks for Evening Entertaining from MomAdvice.com

Bring Inside Elements Out to Keep Guests Comfy

I never look at things inside our house and think that they can only be used indoors.

You will often find me dragging out dining chairs, piling up our throw pillows up, and heaving side tables out onto the patio.

I love  to create warmth and comfort for our guests, but I’m not a millionaire.

Smaller homes require you to really consider what can function in multiple ways for your home and it helps cut down on out of season storage.

That’s why I rely on the items in my home to create a comfy space outside too.

Tips & Tricks for Evening Entertaining from MomAdvice.com

Here are three pillow options that go inside AND outside in our home (option 1, option 2, option 3– all under $12!!) when entertaining.

I don’t know about you, but there can never be too many throw pillows- am I right?

To add a touch of spring to my home, I pulled in the coral color to mix in with my blues.

All of these pillows happen to transition really well with our gorgeous outdoor rug on our patio and match our stained picnic table outdoors too.

Tips & Tricks for Evening Entertaining from MomAdvice.com

Tips & Tricks for Evening Entertaining from MomAdvice.com

Tips & Tricks for Evening Entertaining from MomAdvice.com

Tips & Tricks for Evening Entertaining from MomAdvice.com

Warm Your Guests (S’mores NOT Optional)

Having a place for a fire has been lovely and may have contributed to summer weight gain (ahem!)

I can never resist the opportunity for a s’more though. Have you seen my S’More Toppings Bar I created?

Clearly, I have an addiction.

We love to get our fire pit going and nothing completes the evening like a bit of warmth and a  killer playlist on Spotify.

I’m talking about you, Adele.

I hope these ideas inspire you and I wanted to share a giveaway so you can create your own perfect evening outdoors with a few of your favorite people.

Check out the widget below for directions to enter our $100 Walmart Gift Card giveaway!

Good luck, everyone!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Live-Better-Network-Badge

In accordance with the FTC Guidelines, I am disclosing that I received compensation from BHG at Walmart for my time and participation in the BHG Live Better Network. Although we have material connection to BHG, any publicly stated opinions of BHG and their products remain my own.

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How To Start A Successful & Fun Book Club

Tuesday, April 5th, 2016

I couldn’t be more exited about this fun and inspiring guest post from my fellow book-lover and friend, Nicole Bennet! I LOVE book clubs, Nicole’s tips are great, and her club? Adorable!

How to start a successful and fun book club with Nicole Bennet for MomAdvice

For someone who had been devouring books since learning to read, and had enjoyed talking about books almost as much as reading them, last year was the first time I had the realization that I’d never been a part of a real, in-person book club.

I decided it was time to change that. I’d recently seen some inspiration both in real life and online, and had some ideas about what would constitute a fun, engaging group, so I made a simple plan and jumped in.

The result? It’s been a thoroughly enjoyable experience for all of us. And the takeaway? I wish I’d done this sooner!

In case some of you bookworms might be feeling the pull to gather some people who you can discuss books with, I thought I’d share the details of how I got mine started– it can be as simple or elaborate of a venture as you want it to be, and bonus: you don’t have to do all the leg work if that intimidates you.

lake house book club

How to Start a Book Club

The Members

The first step: choosing whom to join up with. I chose two friends at church who I often found myself discussing books with, Sarah and Susan. We happen to have pretty similar tastes in books so we had been frequently reading the same books already.

I approached both of them, and when they expressed interest, I asked them each to invite a friend if they wanted. Susan invited Hannah, and then I invited another reader friend, too, Rena. We decided to keep it fairly small, and got started.

After a couple of months, I ran into Amie, a friend I hadn’t seen in ages. She commented that she’d seen me briefly mention my new book club on my blog. Did we have room for one more? I ran it by the group, and we decided we’d love her to join us. Amie jumped in for the next book, making us six, and our group has felt like a great size.

There’s no perfect number for a book club, but we’ve found that keeping our group pretty small makes gatherings simpler and discussions have plenty of space for everyone to share their opinions.

Choosing Books

At the end of each meeting, we draw a name of someone who hasn’t yet chosen a book. That member then gets to pick the book and host the next meeting if she wants. Easy Peasy! Sometimes we pick a book we’ve all had on our to-read list, and other times some of us end up reading something we wouldn’t have otherwise picked.

So far we’ve read Where’d Ya Go Bernadette? (my choice), In the Unlikely Event (Rena’s choice), The Lake House (Sarah’s choice), and next up is The Nightingale (Hannah’s choice).

Frequency

For now, we’ve decided to meet seasonally, as I originally wanted to make our club fairly laid back. We all have other commitments in the evenings and weekends (like Bible study or church small group, or kids’ sports games) so I didn’t want it to add stress to our lives. It’s worked out to meet about every three months, which gives us plenty of time to acquire (often via library holds waiting lists) and read the book, and also have time to keep reading plenty of other books.

Maybe you’ll choose monthly or bi-monthly, or keep meetings spread farther out like us– do what works for your group.

After a couple of months have passed from our last meeting, the next host will send out a Doodle (a brilliant little free tool), which lists a handful of possible dates/times to meet. We all fill it out to see which time slot works for everyone and get the next date on the calendar.

Discussion

Whoever chooses the book runs our discussion. Sometimes we find questions online (often the publisher or author has questions on their website), other times we just let the discussion flow. Either way, we all usually end up leaving book club liking the book even more after having talked about it together.

unlikely event book club

Theme

My favorite aspect of our club has been designing our gatherings– we follow the theme, setting, and time period of our book to spark inspiration– it’s so fun!

Sarah is our most careful reader (and also happens to be a total foodie), so she has volunteered to keep a running list of food mentioned in each of our books as she reads. She then emails it out and we use that to draw ideas from and decide what we’ll each bring. It’s fun seeing how food plays a part in the plot of our books, and when we eat together while we chat about the book, it makes us feel somehow more connected to the story (and each other).

bernadette book club

Sometimes we dress up a little, too, or have fun setting the table or coffee table to jive with the feel of the book. For Bernadette, we all donned big sunglasses and and scarves (and Rena even wore a sweet cargo vest!), and for The Lake House we enjoyed Sarah’s beautiful tea set as we snacked (see first photo). This is the area where you can really get carried away and have fun with it if you want.

Our book club has been such a fun way to enjoy each other’s company and feel like we are getting a little extra something out of the books we read together. If you love to read, I highly recommend gathering a few friends to read with.

It doesn’t have to add any stress to your life– life which I’m sure is already full, and possibly busy. On the contrary, it will be sure to add an extra dose of joy and fun.

Nicole takes a book everywhere she goes. She loves encouraging others to read and talking about books, both in real life and on her blog. Sign up for her newsletter and you’ll receive a free ebook titled Read More: Why & How to Make Time for Reading Amidst the Busyness of Life.

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The Best of Fall, Halloween & Thanksgiving: 49 Ideas for Decor, Crafts, Recipes, Costumes & More!

Thursday, October 29th, 2015

The Best of Fall, Halloween & Thanksgiving-49 Ideas for Decor, Crafts, Recipes, Costumes & More

Fall is really one of my favorite seasons, from the first leaves that turn glorious colors through Halloween costumes to hanging out with family and friends for Thanksgiving, I love it all! Mom Advice has been around long enough that I’ve got a TON of great ideas, tutorials, and recipes that are perfect for this season, so I’m rounding it all up in one spot for you, since I know a lot of your are fall lovers like me.

No matter what you like, you’ll find something here for you, including lots of easy DIY decorating, some fun knitting projects, comforting food recipes (including my popular list of make-ahead Thanksgiving recipes!), costume ideas for the whole family, and more.

Miniature-Felted-Pumpkins

Fall Decor & Crafts

Mini Felted Pumpkin Tutorial

Warm Up Outdoor Spaces for Fall

Handmade Autumn Burlap Wreath Tutorial

7 Easy Upcycle Projects for Fall

Fall Decorating with Goodwill Items

DIY Decorative Thumbtack Pumpkins

Knitted Leaves Centerpiece
Knitted Leaf Centerpiece

Duct Tape Pumpkins

How to Decoupage Pumpkins

Painted Address Pumpkin Topiary

7 Scarves & Cowls to Knit for Fall

Pumpkin-Hand-Pies

Fall Recipes

Pumpkin Hand Pies

Fall DIY Drinks

Pumpkin Nut Quinoa Breakfast

11 Pumpkin Recipes

Pumpkin Cranberry Cornbread

21_Easy_Slow_Cooker_Meals
21 Easy Slow Cooker Meals

8 Ways to Use Canned Pumpkin

12 Great Tailgating Recipes

Baked Pumpkin Donuts with Maple Syrup Frosting

And while not a decor or recipe, let’s not forget these 5 Ways to Date Your Husband in the Fall!

DIY_Halloween_Costumes

Halloween Costumes, Decor & Recipes

7 New DIY Halloween Costumes

DIY Minecraft Costume Ideas

Easy DIY Halloween Costumes

Halloween Costume Ideas for the Whole Family

doughnut-hole-ghost-cake
Doughnut Hole Ghost Cake

Festive Halloween Decorating Ideas

How to Make Chalkboard Pumpkins

Happy, Healthy Halloween Night Feast

How to Make Glow-in-the-Dark Jell-o

Woodland-Creatures-Printables-Tablescapes

Thanksgiving Decor, Crafts & Entertaining

Woodland Thanksgiving Table + Free Printables

DIY Thanksgiving Centerpiece

Host a Friendsgiving Feast

How to Entertain the Kids on Thanksgiving Day

How to Set the Perfect Thanksgiving Table

DIY Chalkboard Food Label Frames

Apple_Sausage_And_Sage_Sourdough_Stuffing

Thanksgiving Recipes

Make Ahead Apple, Sausage & Sage Sourdough Stuffing

Make Ahead Gravy

Make Ahead Green Bean Casserole

Make Ahead Buttery Bread Machine Rolls

Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes for a Crowd

Make Ahead Brandied Orange Cranberry Sauce

Herb Roasted Turkey Breast

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5 Ways to Decorate Store-Bought Pies

Dress Up a Store-Bought Pie with Cranberry-Crunch Pie Topping

Homemade Pumpkin Pie

All-Butter Pie Crust Tutorial

7 Make Ahead Appetizers for Thanksgiving

Make Ahead Recipes for Thanksgiving Day

Are you a fall lover, too? What are some of your favorite recipes, crafts, or traditions?

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m challenge: What’s in Your Carry On Bag?

Monday, June 8th, 2015

Carry-On Bag Essentials Ideas from MomAdvice.com

I have gotten the chance to travel a lot with my job which has been an unexpected blessing for this blogger. I had always been a nervous and scared traveler, but now I don’t even lose sleep the night before my trips because I feel relaxed and prepared.

Today I wanted to share with you a few of my favorite carry-on essentials that I keep with me when I travel.

Carry-On Bag Essentials Ideas from MomAdvice.com

Cozy Items

I hate the cold air blowing on me in a plane so I always try to keep a couple of cozy items in my carry-on bag.  The first thing I always have is a nice cushy pair of socks especially if I am traveling in sandals where that cold air can blow right on my freezing cold feet.

The other thing I always have is a wide scarf or poncho to keep me warm. I discovered this Kerisma Poncho (found at Ali on the Boulevard for $36- you can contact her if you want one. Just call 574-274-3110, they can take your CC by phone and ship to you!). These come in a variety of colors and can be worn five different ways including as a scarf when traveling.  The nice thing about this poncho is that it folds up really small so it is easy to transport. Although this says it is a dry clean only item, I ran it through a handwash cycle and line dried it with no problems at all.  I keep this with me, not only for travel, but for a light covering at air-conditioned restaurants or as an easy layer on cool summer mornings.

Carry-On Bag Essentials Ideas from MomAdvice.com

Items to Help Me Sleep

After taking a ten hour flight, I now understand the true challenges of international travel. I always travel with a sleep mask, some Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime Extra Tea (not the regular stuff, the extra stuff- read the reviews why!), and I pop a Tylenol PM as soon as I hop on the plane so I can try to knock myself out for my flight. Combining that with my poncho and socks… I can usually get a great sleep on the plane with this winning combination.

Carry-On Bag Essentials Ideas from MomAdvice.com

Great Snacks

Being gluten-free and traveling can be a tricky combination so I always try to keep lots of snacks in my carry-on in case I have trouble eating anywhere. I always carry a big bag of almonds and these Think Thin Creamy Peanut Butter Protein Bars are a go-to because they are gluten-free, have 0 grams of sugar, and 20 grams of protein. If I end up not being able to stop for a bite to eat between flight connections, this is often my lunch or dinner.

I also try to bring an empty water bottle with me for filling. Our airport (as do many) offers a water bottle filling station so I bring it empty to get through security and then fill it once I am at my gate. Filling this up saves me several dollars and keeps me hydrated while flying. I recommend a style like this for optimal flavor and easy transport.

Carry-On Bag Essentials Ideas from MomAdvice.com

Fantastic Entertainment

For me, it is all about reading on the plane. My last trip, I managed to consume four books which would be ridiculous to try to carry around in my suitcase. I use the Overdrive app from my library and load up my Kindle app on my iPad for reading on the plane. I also purchased this Logitech iPad Keyboard that is my favorite gadget of all for travel. It basically makes your iPad into a mini laptop. I am able to answer emails and update my social media channels, but it also acts as a fantastic holder for holding my iPad to watch shows or for reading on the plane (I just rest this on the tray or on my lap).  If you are looking for some great books to read on your next flight, be sure to visit our book review section of the site!

Carry-On Bag Essentials Ideas from MomAdvice.com

Items to Freshen Up

I try to keep a couple of items to freshen up with when traveling on long flights. These Listerine PocketPaks are a great substitute for brushing your teeth in the tiny lavatory. I also use these Yes to Blueberries wipes that I buy off of ePantry (I love drugstore deliveries) for a fake shower, wiping down and refreshing. I also am a big fan of my Burts Bee’s lip balm (did you see the documentary on this guy– that is one interesting man!).  After a little refreshing, I feel a lot better after hopping off my flight.

 

What are some items you always carry in your carry-on bag? Share them below!

Gearing Up for Summer

Thursday, March 24th, 2005

Summer is just around the corner and with the warmer weather comes many preparations in both the interior and the exterior of the home. Spring-cleaning your house should not just involve the deep-cleaning of the interior of your home, but it should also include preparing the outside of your home for all of those lovely days that you will be able to be out enjoying the sunshine. The best part about this type of cleaning is that it can all be done outdoors. Not only can you accomplish a few things off of your to-do list, but you can also get a nice tan while you are cleaning.

Get Your Grill On

At the end of the summer we should have all dedicated a day towards cleaning our grills and preparing them for the next summer. If you are anything like our family though, you probably decided not to do this until the next season and now you have a dirty grill to contend with before you can start your grilling. Cleaning a grill does not have to be a tedious task, however, and there are a few ways that you can go about cleaning your grill without involving a lot of elbow grease.

If you have a self-cleaning oven, cleaning the racks of your grill will be a breeze. Simply bring the grill racks indoors and place them inside your oven. Run the oven through the self-cleaning mode and then, not only will you have sparkling clean grill racks, but you will also have a clean oven to boot.

If you do not have a self-cleaning oven, this task may require a little more effort on your part, but it can still be done easily. Upon removing any lava rocks in the bottom of the grill, spray the interior of the grill with a no-heat oven cleaner, shut the grill, and go about your day. The following day, hose down the interior of the grill and use a metal wire brush to remove any stuck on gunk from your grill.

A great way to prevent your grill from getting any stuck on grease and build-up on it in the future is to spray the grill, before heating, with a nonstick skillet spray. In a pinch, a cheap alternative to a nonstick spray is to use a cut potato. Rubbing the potato on the grill racks creates a lovely nonstick surface and performs just as the spray would.

Before firing up your grill this year, be sure to take careful safety precautions to insure that there is not a leak in your gas connection. You can check for leaks by making a mixture of dish soap and water. Brush this mixture onto your gas connection and turn on the connection. If bubbles appear when you turn the grill on, you will know that there is a leak and that the grill is not safe to use.

Outdoor Seating

Last year we purchased our first patio set and it has been so nice to have somewhere to sit and relax while my son plays. We disassembled our chairs and stored them for the winter, but despite these efforts, the chairs will need a thorough cleaning when they are removed from storage.

The type of cleaning needed to restore the beauty of your furniture will depend on the type of lawn furniture that you own.

Plastic furniture is one of the easiest types of furniture to clean. This furniture can be cleaned with any multipurpose household cleaner that you might have on hand. Dampen a rag and wipe down with a spray of the cleaning solution. Do a quick rinse with the garden hose and then your lawn furniture will be looking like new again.

Wicker furniture requires a more careful cleaning. Using a soft cloth, give the furniture a good dusting. Once the furniture has been dusted, you will have a clearer picture of what areas will need more special attention. Use a homemade mixture of water and dishwashing soap, (one tablespoon of dishwashing soap to one gallon of water) to do a through spot cleaning of your wicker furniture. Remember to make sure that the furniture is completely dry before being sat on though because it could permanently ruin your furniture.

Lawn furniture with outdoor cushioning can easily be cleaned with a homemade solution of water and laundry detergent (spray bottle filled with water and one tablespoon of your favorite laundry detergent, shaken well). Spray the cleaner on any dirty spots on your cushion and wipe with a cloth. For especially fresh smelling seating, spray with a fabric refresher.

Porches

Porches will need some extra attention after the winter and fall seasons before they are summer-ready. Sweep away all dirt and debris from your porch and then spray the area with a hose to remove any lingering dust or debris.

Rain Gutters

Rain gutters should be inspected twice a year- once in the spring and one in the fall. The best way to discover if your gutters are in need of a cleaning is to look up at the outside rim of the top of the gutter. If there is discoloration, there is most likely some buildup in the gutter and water is not able to make it through and is causing overflowing. Be sure to check all of your gutters for debris and wash them out with a hose.

A “gutter scooper” can be made out of a gallon plastic jug for scooping out any large amounts of debris. Using a razor or a knife cut the bottom half off a gallon jug. Grasp the handle of the jug and use the jug to scoop out any large amounts of debris.

If the down spouts are clogged, a garden hose turned on full force can be pushed down to blow out the clog. If your water pressure is not strong enough to remove all of the debris, a hose bladder can be purchased at your local hardware store. This holds the water and allows it to build up for a minute, then releases it in a high-power rush. If you are still plagued with plugged drain spouts, you can then try using a plumber’s snake to loosen the objects that are blocking the path.

While cleaning your gutters, make sure that you note any special repairs and replace any gutters that may need updating.

Screens

Many people remove their screens before the winter and bring these out in the spring. If you are one of these people, your screens may need a little extra TLC to get them back in shape. The best way to clean your screens is lay them flat on top of a cloth or soft surface. Keeping them on a soft surface will prevent scratching from occurring on the frames. Next, hose down the screens and then scrub gently with an all-purpose cleaner. A frugal scrubbing brush for your screens can be made out of a leftover scrap of carpeting. The carpet can be used doing a thorough cleaning of your screens. Finally, rinse the screens again and then tap off any excess water. After they have been cleaned, they are ready to be hung up for the warm season.

Wrapping Up

After completing all of these tasks, not only will the exterior of your home be lovely, but you will also have been able to enjoy some of that great sunshine too. Enjoy all of that beautiful weather and I hope that these tips offer some helpful insight on how you can get these tasks accomplished.