6 Steps to Planning a Sweet Summer with Your Family

June 18th, 2019

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

Since she was a preschooler, I’ve taken my oldest daughter on a date after the last day of school. It’s an opportunity for us to have some sweet, one-on-one time, but also a time for us to reflect on the last nine months. I ask about her favorite parts of the school year, the hardest parts, and what she learned. But then, we turn to the future.

Making plans for the summer is one of our favorite things to do. Because yes, I’ve trained my daughter to love lists and schedules and plans just as much as I do. Parenting win! But seriously, we do love it — me because we come up with a plan on how to survive the summer months and her because she gets to share her ideas and have a bit of influence on what we do.

That’s not to say I show up at our lunch date with a blank calendar. No, by the time school is out, I’ve already registered my kids for camp parents’ night out or open houseparents’ night out or open house, made hotel reservations for any trips, and started talking to possible babysitters for the days I just have to get some work done. But we still have plenty of summer hours to fill and plenty of days to plan.

Are you worried that I’m that uptight mom who over-schedules her kids? Wondering if my girls even know how to play on their own? Longing for the days of old, when kids got out of school and then spent three months playing pickup ball, riding bikes, and catching fireflies?

I know. Me too! So don’t panic. I promise that’s not what I’m about. If you crave structure and need to have a general idea of what you and your kids are going to do this summer, but also want to leave plenty of space for regular old playtime, I’m here to help. This is not possible. We can do it! Read on for tips for planning a sweet summer!

Do your homework.

Pull up all the websites in all the tabs. Camps, churches with VBS programs, library programs, bucket lists from Pinterest, summer school listings on the district website, road trip itineraries — get it all in front of you.

Are you going to do all these things? Heck no. But you want to know what your options are before you start picking and choosing the few things you’re going to do.

Try something new.

Summertime is the perfect time for trying out a new hobby, activity, or sport. I couldn’t fit a full week of art camp into our budget, but I signed up my youngest for a morning drawing class. And I’m not sure my oldest will like karate (we’ve tried it before, but I’m determined to have her try again), so rather than commit to a weeks-long session, she’ll attend parents’ night out or open house at the local martial arts school to test it out. 

Include your favorites or family traditions.

Do you always watch fireworks from the park down the street? Do you kick off the season with a big barbecue or just by pulling out the fire pit? Are summer afternoons time for bubbles and sidewalk chalk and bike rides? Do you let the kids set up a lemonade stand every year or go geocaching in the woods behind your house? Are they (and you) looking forward to their annual visit to the grandparents’? Whatever you’ve made a habit of doing year after year — big or small, at home or on the town, silly or serious — make sure to include these things on your summer agenda. And if you’re not sure which activities or outings your kids are counting on this year, just ask them! You might be surprised by the things they remember and love the most.

Give the kids choices.

Speaking of what the kids want… Now’s the time to get them involved in the process of making plans! You might not want to give them carte blanche with your calendar, but you can give them some leeway. Perhaps come up with 10 ideas for summer projects and ask them to pick three. Or sit together and sift through all the ideas you found when you did your homework. Make a giant wish list, then pare it down to what’s doable for your family. 5.

Make margin and leave room to breathe.

While we want to keep our kids (and maybe ourselves) busy during our break and while we want to do everything we can to make summer fun for everyone, there’s something to be said for downtime. Unscheduled time. Blank space on the calendar and breathing room in our souls. Let them be bored sometimes. Stay up late and take naps. Leave room for spontaneous playdates or game nights or pizza picnics on the back porch.

Only you know what the right amount of rest is for your family. And this is something that will change from year to year (maybe from day to day)! So, give yourself time to figure it out and room to adjust. And just know that what works for other families might not work for you. And what worked just fine last year might be completely different from what you need this year.

It’s all about balance.

Now, don’t get me wrong. If your family is all about baseball and that’s all you do, all day, every day, that’s awesome! I mean, it is not for me — but I’m not your kid! If your family is all in with an activity or hobby or sport, go for it. But for many of us, a little balance goes a long way.

When I’m making summer plans for my family, I try to balance all the things: indoors and outdoors, sports and art and science and music, active and resting, fun and learning and chores and more fun, planned and unplanned, time with friends and time reserved for family. Do you think I ever get that balance right? No, of course not. But I try, which means we end up with more balance than if I didn’t try at all.

That’s it. That’s how I plan our summers and what I recommend to you. But more important than following my steps and suggestions is following your heart and what you know about your family. Choose the things that work for you, that bring you joy, that keep you sane, that create the summertime memories you — and they! — will treasure forever. And let the rest go.

Love these ideas? Here are a few more you might enjoy!

7 Promises I’m Making to My Kids This Summer

Using Technology on Summer Break

DIY Summer Time Capsule Craft for Kids

DIY Fluffy Slime Recipe (so fun!!)

DIY Rainbow Bubble Snakes

Have you started making plans for this summer?

Mary Carver is a writer, speaker, and recovering perfectionist. She lives for good books, spicy queso, and television marathons, but she lives because of God’s grace. Mary writes with humor and honesty about giving up on perfect and finding truth in unexpected places on her blog,MaryCarver.com. She is the author of Fast Talk & Faith: A 22-Day Devotional Inspired by Gilmore Girls and co-author of Choose Joy: Finding Hope & Purpose When Life Hurts.She is also a regular contributor toincourage.me and MothersofDaughters.com. Mary and her husband live in Kansas City with their two daughters.

Amy’s Notebook 06.06.19

June 6th, 2019


Love the notebook? Sign up for my free weekly newsletter with more incredible articles!!

I can’t wait to try this DIY Wendy’s Frosty recipe for a summer treat. Yum!

Did you know you can make your own Magic Erasers? I didn’t.

The one thing you can do to improve your happiness.

Why suburban moms are delivering your groceries.

I’m enjoying this fun book this week. As a bookish person, I am loving the humor in it.

Speaking of books, did you see this?


How delicious do these cherry limeade slushies look? Sign me up.

What one writer learned from 30 days without booze. I liked these tips for changing your routines too!

5 ways to unplug and live your summer to the fullest.

This was your favorite purchase this week (and mine too!)

I also love this reminder- the gift of stillness and what we can learn from it.

Wow, I never would have thought to try this tip to keep your guacamole from browning.

6 ways to wear a white t-shirt. I just ordered this one for my summer!

These lemon garlic chicken thighs look like the perfect thing to grill this summer.


I can’t get over how cool these diy planter heads turned out. Aren’t they gorgeous?

7 things standing in the way of you and joy. Wow, this really couldn’t be more true.

How to stop being shy in just thirteen steps. I belly laughed through this one.

15 ways to refresh your space for under $30. Love these ideas!

How to sleep when your baby sleeps– hahaha!

This is a whole lotta labeling eye candy. I am so inspired.

The 30 most anticipated books coming out for June. I love summer reading.

I hope you enjoyed our notebook, a collection of gathered links to DIY crafts, food projects, thrifty ways to spruce up your home, and thoughtful reads. Nothing brings me more joy than to highlight other fabulous bloggers. Follow me on Pinterest for daily inspiration!

Please note, there are affiliate links in this post- thank you! xoxo

May Happy List

June 5th, 2019

May was a bit of a blur and I’m so happy to be back at my desk and sharing on the blog again! I squeezed in so much this past month including a trip to Austin for the Mom 2.0 Summit, a trip to Kansas City to celebrate a fellow mama’s 40th birthday, an incredible Mother’s Day date with my childhood best friend, and too many celebrations to even count!

The blogging conference felt eye-opening in many ways. There has been a strong shift in this industry that many of us are struggling to weather. The industry continues to ask more and more and more, but the real shift is moving from blogging evergreen searchable content to the Instagram platform where things only stay in our feeds for a short time. In fact, many couldn’t weather these changes if they didn’t have their ad networks running (myself included).

It gave me a lot to think about, on my way home, and what pivot I will need to do to stick around. I’m thankful I had started that process with growing our book club and building out our first reading retreat (this July!!). I have also started the outlining process of writing my first ebook on life hacks for moms with chronic illness. It is something I have been carrying around since this journey began and I’d love to pass it on to someone else.

I still have so much to share and do here so I don’t feel done yet, but I think it is good to talk about this stuff in real ways with you!

Should we move on to the happy list? Let’s do it!

Have you been missing the 3 little things list each week? Just so you know, this feature didn’t go away…it just moved over to my newsletters each week.

Sign up is super quick over here. I will even send you some free printables to help you put together this incredible home management binder.

Today I wanted to share what you might have missed this past month in one big giant happy list!!

A 3-Minute Pain-Relief Routine

I was on the hunt for some drug-free pain relief this winter and stumbled upon this book that delivers a 3-minute strategy for chronic pain. This doctor offered some miraculous stories of people being able to overcome pain through this simple stretching routine that can be done daily to help relieve body pain. The poses are similar to yoga poses that I have done, but what makes it different is the sequential order of the movements and the holding of the movements versus a yoga flow.

For the last month, I have been doing this routine daily and I am seeing a remarkable difference in my pain. Along with this simple routine, the book offers targeted pain relief exercises for specific types of pain through an encyclopedia of exercises to try to help with pain management.

Dr. Weisberg encourages readers to make this a part of your daily routine, like brushing your teeth, to see the best results.

If you struggle with chronic pain, from an injury or a chronic pain illness, I can’t recommend this resource enough. Not only have the exercises been helpful, but it also offers strategies for routines that will help with your spinal alignment.

John Mulaney Kid Gorgeous Netflix Special

I have a growing appreciation for John Mulaney and was so excited to see that he had a new Netflix special out.

My husband and I watched it and belly-laughed through the entire thing. Mulaney is a breath of fresh air when it comes to humor and he isn’t too proud to not lean into how our humor changes as we get older.

Normally, I find his comedy to be really conservative and this time he brought some humor into today’s politics, our jobs being taken over by robots, and how annoying it is that his college is asking for donations (relatable!).

It was so funny that we are going to watch it again with our teenage son, a boy whose humor could only be matched by John Mulaney.

Definitely add this one to your weekend Netflix binge!

Rescued Food Feeding Kids

Have you heard of the concept of food rescue? I had read about this happening in other countries, but had never seen this in action in the states…until this past month.

Cultivate Culinary, a local nonprofit, is feeding area kids with the extra food from catered events in town and even area schools are sending food to be packaged for students that need meals on the weekends.

Shared in this news article, “Mostly, we rescue food that’s been made but never served by catering companies, large food service businesses, like the school system,” said Jim Conklin, Cultivate. “You don’t always think of a school. Over-preparing is just part of what happens,” said Conklin. “We take well-prepared food, combine it with other food and make individual frozen meals out if it.”

Right now they are preparing hundreds of meals weekly that go home in insulated backpacks for kids in need.

If you are looking for a place to volunteer with friends (or to make new ones), consider volunteering. It is so fun and it feels really good knowing you are helping our kids!

It’s also a great place to make a donation to support their efforts to feed kids in need.

I shared a quick video and pic from my time this week volunteering.

I, honestly, can’t wait to go back!

Warm Rustic Woods Scented Candle

There is a new favorite candle over at our house and it is the Warm Rustic Woods candle from BHG.

I am not a big fan of floral candles and I can find the food scented candles to be a little overwhelming.

This fragrance is slightly more masculine, but warm and delicious. It is one of those scents you can use all year long and never get tired of.

If you are looking for a new candle, you can’t beat the price on this one.

Make it last even longer with a candle warmer instead of burning it!

e.l.f. Glow Primer Stick

I have dry skin and I have never been able to find a primer that didn’t dry my skin out more than it already is.

e.l.f started carrying a glow primer stick, that contains coconut and shea butter, and I thought I would give it a try since it seemed geared towards people with my skin type.

I can’t rave enough how awesome this primer stick is and how moisturizing it is to my skin. It adds a subtle glow (no fake glitter effects with this one) and you can’t beat the price at just $8!

If you have dry skin and are hunting for the perfect primer, give this affordable option a spin.

Homecoming Documentary

Last month my husband and I watched the new Homecoming documentary from Beyonce and, I’m almost positive, our mouths were hanging open the entire time.

Homecoming documents the grueling schedule and work that went into Beyonce’s triumphant return to stage following the birth of her twins.

She was the headliner for Coachella and decided to use this opportunity to educate and represent all aspects of black culture in one of the most phenomenal show displays that I have ever seen.

She was responsible for every element of this show from writing, directing, producing, and starring and had made all decisions down to those nitty gritty details of measurements of seating on her stage.

As a mom, she gives you an intimate look at what a sacrifice this was and I am blown away by her discipline to get her body back back in such a short time all while managing the incredible duties of this show.

More importantly, her work shows us what is possible when we have a platform and how we can use it to teach people in incredible ways. We all might not have a platform like her, but what could we do in our smaller ways to bring joy and love to others?

I could go ON and ON about the incredible representation and inclusivity that she pulled off, but I just think you should watch it.

I am looking forward to listening to this album now that I have seen the show. It’s incredible!

Free Challenging Workouts from PopSugar

I might be the last person in the world to know about the free YouTube fitness channel, but PopSugar’s free workouts have really been making my workouts a ton of fun! I love to do my favorite spinning routines and then polish them off with a 10-minute sweat session through this YouTube channel.

If you think ten minutes sounds so easy, go ahead and give this booty blast workout a try and tell me all about how you almost died too.

Prefer a barre-driven workout? This workout blew me away at how challenging it was while feeling restorative at the same time.

I am excited to explore more classes and love that these save me a ton of money on a gym membership while giving me the variety that I am after.

Class lengths can be anywhere between a short and effective ten minute sweat sesh to forty-five minutes in length. Bringing in a variety of fitness instructors, you can take advantage of loads of different workouts from cardio dance to weight lifting to yoga.

Basically, no excuses.

The Perfect Sleep Mask

I managed to leave behind my sleep mask in a hotel room this month. For me, a good sleep mask is essential for a good solid night’s sleep. When my husband found out, he ordered a new mask for me, and for himself, and I have to say, this guy NAILED IT!

This cotton sleep mask is beautifully designed, in a way that TRULY keeps the lights out when you wear it. Made of breathable cotton, the nose area has a foldable piece of boning that allows you to shape it around your own nose, to keep all the light out from that area.

Straps are usually troublesome for me, but this is wide and has the clasps in an area that doesn’t cause discomfort for side sleepers. At under, $10, I can’t rave enough!

It even comes with a handy carrier case that clips to your bags so you never lose it in a hotel room again.

For me, it is all about these little things and I’ve enjoyed getting some really restful sleep with this blackout sleep mask!

Electrolytes Daily

I can’t tell you how many of these electrolyte tablets I had shared with friends over my last few trips. Nuun is my favorite brand because they come in a really smart portable canister and the flavors just can’t be beat. I really think of these as a portable IV that is the perfect sports recovery drink or (let’s be honest) the perfect hangover cure.

I double the water on mine, which is the perfect amount of flavor for someone who is a big LaCroix fan. Doing it with the recommended amount of water yields a stronger flavor that reminds me of a Gatorade drink.

The best part is that these are low in sugar and carbs, unlike a lot of the electrolyte drinks on the market. They recently added an immunity-boosting blend that I’m excited to try. As someone who has POTS Syndrome, electrolytes are one of my body’s best defenses against my ongoing symptoms.

Although I feel it goes without saying, ALWAYS travel with a reusable water bottle on your trips. I bring it empty, to get through security, and take advantage of the water bottle filling stations that are now placed in all the airports.

It is such an easy thing to do and many hotels now have filling stations in their lobbies, so you are never without water.

Not only are you saving a load of money, but you are doing a little part for the environment too.

Adding tablets, like these, is a fun way to keep the variety going all week long.

Dead to Me on Netflix

I can’t stop talking about how much I loved the new Netflix series, Dead to Me. If you haven’t seen it yet, I really wish I was you right now. Fans of Big Little Lies will be swept away in this twisty layered plot.

Linda Cardellini & Christina Applegate star in this dark comedy about life after loss. Jen is a real estate agent whose husband is brutally killed in a hit-and-run near their home late one night. She joins a grief support circle where she meets Judy, who also is going through a loss of her own. The two become fast friends and boundaries become blurred very quickly because Jen really needs someone to be her friend through this season.

Jen can’t seem to move forward though until she finds the person who has killed her husband. It consumes her and she is filled with rage and bitterness. Applegate shines in these vulnerable moments that really showcase her acting chops.

Cardellini has a very complex role in this show too where you can’t decide if she is good, bad, or crazy. As secrets are uncovered, it threatens their fragile friendship in some surprising ways.

I love that the episodes are 30 minutes, which feels like the perfect amount of time at this stage in my life, and that each one ends on such a cliffhanger that you have to keep pushing through. I, in fact, finished the whole series in two days and loved how they chose to end the first season with ANOTHER cliffhanger. Definitely add this one to your weekend agenda!

My Amazing New Cordless Vacuum

We are reaching that point where everything in our house seems to be breaking on us and I was in desperate need of a new quick vac to replace our broken one. I stumbled upon this Hoover Impulse, on my Target run, and knew this would be perfect for our house. It sweeps all my floors like a dream (carpet, tile, & laminate) and it can be taken apart to be a small handheld vac on your furniture or used with attachments to clean the tops of cupboards and light fixtures.

Basically, it does ALL THE THINGS and is lightweight and cordless.

While I would love the Dyson, this one was in a much sweeter price point and offered similar benefits.

I highly recommend it! It has made me cleaning a lot more fun!

Supporting a New-To-Me Local Potter

Justin Rothshank is a Goshen potter that creates pieces featuring some of your favorite people on them. For Mother’s Day, I snagged a beautiful mug of our mayor for my Mother’s Day treat. I have to say, these are even more beautiful person and would be a treasured gift for anyone in your life. The mug is just the perfect size and I love leaving it out to display it in our cabinets. I can’t rave enough about the product or how good it feels to support local artists. Check out his Etsy shop!

Here are a few of my favorite May captures (follow me on IG for more)!

I got a squeeze from Jen Hatmaker at the Iris Awards

way too many belly laughs with my roomies- Sarah & Meagan from The Mom Hour Podcast

snagged this fun dress from thredup for $30 and paired it with these fun block heels from Target #livingmybrand

spent mother’s day with my childhood best friend- toasted ourselves with a couple of good margaritas & a little boutique shopping!

celebrated 19 married years with my hubby. time goes by fast when you marry your best friend.

how could this mother’s day card not make you happy?

doing my part to help this walmart dress sell out online. they have some cute dresses this season. #notsponsored #justhappy

nothing makes this girl happier than a flower delivery on her doorstep!

Top Ten Most Visited Articles in May

  1. Amy’s Notebook 03.07.19
  2. Easy Burlap Wreath Tutorial
  3. April 2019 Must-Reads
  4. 3-Ingredient Instant Pot Ribs
  5. How to Stain a Picnic Table
  6. How to Make Quinoa in a Rice Cooker
  7. How to Spray Paint Furniture
  8. Fruit-Infused Water Recipes
  9. DIY Fluffy Slime Recipe
  10. DIY Roll-Up Jigsaw Puzzle Mat

Top Ten Most Purchased Items in May

  1. First Edition Baby Onesie
  2. Rothshank Pottery Mugs
  3. Time & Tru Summer Dresses
  4. Copper Mugs
  5. Personalized Wood Watches
  6. Personalized Metal Photo Keyrings
  7. Teacher Mugs
  8. Navy Floral Jumpsuit
  9. Introverted But Willing to Talk About Books T-Shirt
  10. True Body V-Neck Bras

Top Ten Books Purchased in May- still tons on sale right now! (join the club to be notified of daily deals!)

  1. Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance
  2. No One Can Pronounce My Name
  3. Whiskey & Charlie
  4. Class Mom
  5. The Overdue Life of Amy Byler
  6. The Gown
  7. Everything Here is Beautiful
  8. Dark Matter
  9. Harry’s Trees
  10. Stay With Me

I hope you enjoyed this month’s round-up of May fun and I look forward to sharing more in June! I hope my month of happy brings a month of happy to you too! If this post doesn’t convince you my newsletter is fun, I’ve got nothing. Sign up over here to get this fun weekly in your inbox.

*this post may contain affiliate links- I only recommend what I love though. Check out past editions of It’s the 3 Little Things!

Small-Budget Crushes 06.04.19

June 4th, 2019

So many fun finds this week! xo

square neck shirt with pom pom trim (several colors)

one-shoulder jumpsuit

rainbow birds tote

leopard print belt

state prints (pick your own!)

floral toaster

rocketbook (this is AH-MAZING!)

smocked dress (so many fun colors and patterns!)

dress weights (so smart!!)

tie front leggings (in black too!)

dad jokes card- hahaha!

insulated beer growler

bead and sequins earrings

floral shorts

periodic table vegetable markers

etched marathon pint glasses

wrap-front swimsuit (several colors)

outdoor reclining seat (perfect for those ball games and beach days!)

rib mix joggers

patterned wrap dress (so many gorgeous patterns!)

Keep on window shopping by visiting all of my Small-Budget Crushes. This post contains affiliate links!! 

The 2019 MomAdvice Summer Reads Guide

June 1st, 2019

For many years, I have wanted to do a reading guide for you all, but each year the days would slip away and I would think, “Maybe next year!”

Well, not today, Satan!

I am thrilled to share my first Summer Reading Guide with you! This has been a true labor of love and I’m incredibly proud how this turned out.

Within this 15 page guide you will find:

  • A huge list of great books to read over the summer. I have included some new (and upcoming) novels, but I also weaved in some older favorites that might be easier to snag at your local library.
  • Tips for reading more this summer including a few of my own tried-and-true formulas for reading.
  • A bookworm gift guide filled with fun finds from Etsy sellers.
  • 10 of my all-time favorite books
  • 5 summer selections curated by the Currently Reading Podcast.

All you need to do to access the free guide is be an email subscriber! Upon signing up for our mailing list, you will receive a link to the reading guide.

If you decide to read any of these selections, I’d be honored if you used the #momadvicesummerreading hashtag and tag me on Instagram!

Happy reading, bookworms! xo

Sign up for the MomAdvice Newsletter and receive your FREE Summer Reading Guide!

May 2019 Must-Reads

June 1st, 2019

Who is ready for all that summer reading? Today I’m sharing 8 books that I enjoyed this month and think you will too! This month’s stack includes a couple of incredible thrillers, a courtroom drama, a memoir, and some really fun women’s fiction novels that are begging to be added to your beach bag.

BTW- Did you see my FREE Summer Reading Guide I made for you? This guide should keep you very busy this summer with loads of beautiful reads.

follow my recommendations on Instagram

While you’re here, be sure to print out the 2019 MomAdvice reading challenge worksheet and join our free online book club! You can check out the 2019 MomAdvice Book Club picks over here. Don’t forget to send me a friend request over on GoodReads for more great book reviews!

Did you know Prime members get a read for free every single month? Grab your FREE book over here.

The Book of Month Club Selections Are Also Out!!

This month’s special: New members can now get their first book for $9.99 when they join using this month’s code: SUMMERVACAY and can cancel at any time.

A Nearly Normal Family by M. T. Edvardsson

Recursion by Blake Crouch (read my review on this one HERE)

Golden Hour by Beatriz Williams

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane

Summer of ’69 by Elin Hilderbrand

Here are 8 must-read books I tackled in May:

Miracle Creek by Angie Kim

Thank you to NetGalley and the publishing house for providing an advanced copy for review- it allowed me to toggle between my hardback and Kindle this month. All thoughts and opinions are my own! 

I do not typically turn to courtroom dramas for reading, but the premise for this one was so intriguing that I decided to make Miracle Creek my Book of the Month in April. Don’t worry, if you missed that one, you can probably still add this one to your box this month! Honestly, this book really blew me away with it’s smart twists that it surprised me that such seasoned writing could be found in a debut novelist.

If courtroom thrillers aren’t your cup of tea or if you haven’t picked up one since the Grisham days, I encourage you to give this one a spin!

The book opens with the court case so it is one of those right-out-of-the-gates kind of books that I tend to gravitate towards these days. The story centers around a family who have immigrated to the states and decided to open an experimental medical treatment facility that utilizes a pressurized oxygen chamber as a therapeutic device to treat complex medical cases like autism and infertility.

When the device, known as the Miracle Submarine, explodes, killing two people, everyone becomes a suspect and each have their own motives that could throw their innocence into question.

Told from alternating perspectives, Kim really builds layered characters that are real and relatable. I found the mother, who comes under scrutiny, to be among the most compelling because she is dealing with the heaviness of the day-to-day grind of appointments and struggles with her son and her need to escape from these burdens.

If you are a fan of Celeste Ng or loved Defending Jacob, I have a feeling you will love this book as much as I did. Kim really uses her own complex background in a way that makes you feel sympathy in the Yoo’s family struggles of trying to make their life in America and not always feeling welcomed or at home.

5 out of 5 Stars

The Mother-In-Law by Sally Hepworth

Thank you to NetGalley and the publishing house for providing an advanced copy for review. All thoughts and opinions are my own! 

Don’t you love a deliciously good thriller in the summer months? I have a feeling if you are a Liane Moriarty fan that you will adore The Mother-In-Law this year.

It’s no secret that the mother-in-law gets a bad rap sometimes in literature.  Hepworth though carves a marvelously complex character for her mother-in-law and builds all of these twists and tensions, among her family members, in a way that garners empathy for her role in the family.

Lucy knows right away that she is not the wife that Diana has envisioned for her son.  Lucy struggles with the distance that Diana seems to create within them, despite her charitable spirit and working tirelessly for others as an advocate for female refugees.

When Diana unexpectedly dies of suicide, her family is surprised, but also realizes that her cancer diagnosis may have just been too much for her.

The problem?

The autopsy shows that she never had cancer, but the body does show traces of poison and evidence of suffocation.

Diana’s complex relationships really come into play as you try to piece together what has happened. Told in alternating points of view, through past and present, you realize just how many people had a motive in Diana’s death and how many layers she really did have to her own personal story.

I couldn’t put this one down and would recommend it for a strong thriller that genuinely delivers on those complex thriller plot twists. Fans of The Other Woman, in particular, are sure to enjoy this one!

5 out of 5 Stars

The Overdue Life of Amy Byler by Kelly Harms

Thank you to the publishing house for providing an advanced copy for review. All thoughts and opinions are my own! 

I hope you are snagging those free Kindle First Reads that you are being offered up as a Prime member! The Overdue Life of Amy Byler happened to be one of those free selections and I can’t tell you what a welcome escape it was for this mom!

Amy Byler’s husband unexpectedly left her and for three years she has been raising her teen daughter and tween son all on her own.

When her husband comes back he offers to care for their kids for the summer, to make up for lost time. It’s why Amy decides to escape her suburban life to head to New York for a conference and to visit an old friend in New York City.

Her old friend is impossibly stylish and working for a magazine and thinks Amy’s getaway would make for an excellent piece. Nicknamed her Momspringa, to mimic the Amish teenage passage of Rumspringa, Amy receives a makeover and is encouraged to try dating again. Amy finds herself quite at home in the city and grapples with the blissful absence of responsibility and the welcome joy of having New York City all to herself.

Do I want to leave my family?

Absolutely not!

I will say though that Amy’s fictional escape was just what this Amy needed. Escaping the day-to-day grind sounds pretty flipping amazing when I’m in the thick of end-of-school-year commitments. It also, equally, made me sweet on my kids and hubby again to be reminded of just how beautiful it is to be home and loved unconditionally.

I laughed out loud, there are loads of bookish references and nerd humor, an incredibly beautiful friendship,  and a Nora Ephron-worthy love story all in one delicious little read. It is the perfect palate cleanser between some heavier reads. I have a feeling you will adore this as much as I did, especially if you loved Matchmaking for Beginners.

5 out of 5 Stars

Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes (available for pre-order, available on June 25th)

Thank you to the publishing house for providing an advanced copy for review. All thoughts and opinions are my own! 

NPR Pop Culture fans definitely won’t want to miss this heartfelt debut novel from Linda Holmes, hitting store shelves on June 25th! I’m a big fan of Linda Holmes and her thoughts on pop culture and couldn’t wait to get my hands on her first novel.

Evvie is recently widowed and has decided that taking in a tenant will be a great way to help her pay her bills. Dean, a former Yankees pitcher, happens to be on the hunt for a new place and is looking for a quiet place to escape from his own reality. Dean’s career is now struggling, as he has lost his ability to throw straight, and this apartment is a place for him to escape both the big city life and the media circus that follows.

What the two didn’t realize though is how these holes in their life can be filled with their friendship and how this friendship will lead them back to themselves and to each other.

Holmes has such a way with words and has created a perfectly charming story that will have you rooting for each of these sweet characters. If you appreciate a good comeback story or happen to be looking for a little rom-com for your beach bag, this book is it.

4 out of 5 Stars

The Night Olivia Fell by Christina McDonald

If you are on the hunt for an audiobook for the summer, I highly recommend adding, The Night Olivia Fell, to your earbuds. This isn’t your typical shallow thriller, it has a deep and compelling storyline that really builds believable twists and is filled with rich character development.

Abi Knight receives a call in the middle of the night that her daughter, Olivia, has fallen off a bridge. Upon her arrival, she is informed that Olivia is brain dead and, as an enormous surprise to her mother, she is also pregnant. The doctor believes that they *may* be able to keep her baby alive if they keep Olivia on life support and want to do their best to give her child a fighting chance by keeping the baby in her womb as long as possible.

The police rule her death as an accident, but Abi is troubled by the bruising around Olivia’s wrists and begins to stumble upon a web of secrets that Olivia has been keeping from her. With the help of a detective, she has to confront her own troubled past, find out who the father of Olivia’s baby is, and figure out who would have a motive to kill her daughter.

McDonald writes Abi’s journey with such raw honesty that it brought tears to my eyes. The relationships between our children is so layered and much of the book focuses on her own reflections and guilt for not being enough to her daughter, despite being an incredible and protective mom.  I was completely swept away in this story and McDonald builds believable motives that leave a reader guessing right up until the very end.

5 out of 5 Stars

The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren

Thank you to the publishing house for providing an advanced copy for review. All thoughts and opinions are my own! 

There are good summer reads and then there are PERFECT summer reads and I have to say that, The Unhoneymooners, fell into the PERFECT camp.

Twin sisters Ami & Olive couldn’t be more different. Ami seems to always have the absolute best luck and Olive is her poor unlucky sister. When the entire wedding party gets food poisoning, at Ami’s wedding, Ami decides to forfeit her honeymoon to Olive and Ethan (the brother-of-the-groom) to both go in their place. After all, Ami won the honeymoon free of charge (of course she did!) and this vacation is nonrefundable.

Unfortunately, Olive & Ethan have never gotten along, but decide to form a temporary truce to take advantage of the free vacation. Being together in such close quarters definitely muddies the waters and they begin to uncover hidden layers to each other…and their siblings.

If you have been struggling to get back on the reading bandwagon or if you are just looking for something light and funny for your bag, I can’t recommend this one enough. This is my first Christina Lauren novel, but it won’t be my last. I was laughing out loud through the entire book at the antics of Olive & Ethan. It is, truly, what summer reading is all about!

5 out of 5 Stars

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb

I decided to use my Book-of-the-Month credit on, “Maybe You Should Talk to Someone,” and I’m so glad that I did. Although I am not a big nonfiction reader (and maybe you aren’t too?), I found this book to read as easy as fiction while being incredibly compelling and thought-provoking. It is the type of book that you read and then immediately hand off to someone who might need the sage advice and wisdom of a good therapist too.

What makes this story unique is that the therapist, Lori, is now in a difficult break-up with a boyfriend and finds herself needing a therapist of her own. With the blurred boundaries of working in the very profession you need, Lori finds herself seated in Wendell’s office. Wendell is a therapist she discovered through a colleague by pitching to her an imaginary client that she was searching for the right person for him to talk to. Everything in his office is different than Lori’s, including some of his tactics to understand her better, and Lori is both equally bewildered and admiring of Wendell’s abilities to get to her own hidden truths.

Weaved in, Lori shares about some of her most compelling clients and a bit of the psychology of our own actions and how we can learn to understand the motives of others.  Honestly, the insights are worthy of a good highlighter and a revisit through the tougher times in our lives. I found myself to be quite teary-eyed, particularly through a difficult case of a woman facing cancer. Lori shares her most difficult cases and how to love people even when they seem unworthy of it.

I doubt you could read this and not take away something that would make your life a little better. We also can look forward to this one coming to television, telling Lori’s stories through an ABC series.  I would definitely encourage you to read this one and to also pass it on to someone who could benefit from these lessons too.

5 out of 5 Stars

The Friend by Sigrid Nunez

We read The Friend for this month’s book club chat. This one was selected because it won the 2018 National Book Award and I was really excited to read something that had garnered this award.

The story is about a woman who unexpectedly loses her friend and finds herself burdened with the unwanted elderly dog he has left behind. Although she initially doesn’t want to connect with this animal, they both find companionship with one another as each of them deal with the grief and loss. Unfortunately, she is threatened with her own potential eviction because dogs are prohibited in her apartment building.

The story of this narrator and the dog was what I connected most with and I think that is where the story, truly, shined. There were gorgeous passages and the idea of these two finding one another through this grief was really beautiful.

Where it didn’t shine, for me, was the rambling rants that the story would trail into that felt as though you were reading someone’s stream of thought. It felt more like a memoir of Nunez and how frustrated she is with the craft of writing and literature. At just 212 pages, I had a hard time concentrating amidst her stream of consciousness and it pulled me away from the story I really wanted to hear.

Our book club seemed pretty divided on this one- they either REALLY loved it or they REALLY hated it.

This was definitely not my favorite in the stack, but I do think it can connect with people who crave a meatier piece of literature.

3 out of 5 Stars

Read With Me This Year

January 2019 Must-Reads

February 2019 Must-Reads

March 2019 Must-Reads

April 2019 Must-Reads

What did you read this month? Looking for book ideas? Check out our entire Book section of the site! Don’t forget to friend me on GoodReads! xo

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

Small-Budget Crushes 05.24.19

May 24th, 2019

I’m feeling all those summer feels! xo

call your mom dorm pillow (great grad gift- hahaha!)

gingham printed tie-front top (several patterns)

the book was better print

striped shirt dress (several colors!)

between the pages of a book mug

milestone cards

red midi wrap dress

desert queen print

summer shift dress (so many fun colors and prints)


orch dork t-shirt (love this- I played violin!)

after dinner quiz game

waist-defined jumpsuit (several colors)

swimmers print

floral jumpsuit

first edition onesie

diver beach towel

custom bridal bouquet print (what a great wedding gift!)

Keep on window shopping by visiting all of my Small-Budget Crushes. This post contains affiliate links!! xoxoxo


Amy’s Notebook 05.23.19

May 23rd, 2019


Don’t these vegetarian meatballs look divine? Adding this one to our planner!

Why we gossip and how to stop.

Buying too much stuff is driven by our own uncertainty. Wow, this piece was powerful.

A clever strategy when your dream house is out of your budget.

Friends make everything better.

Don’t use my family for your true crime stories.

I’m bookmarking this chart for how often I should be watering my plants.

38 beginner Instant Pot recipes to try! These looks so yummy!

I’ve got this book in my earbuds this week.

I’m hoping to tackle this project again this week.

Just got this for our outdoor living space and I’m madly in love with the pattern.


This tasseled mirror is giving me ALL THE DIY FEELINGS. So cute!

This killed me– hahaha!

10 of the best vacation books to check out this summer. I always love a good list!

The cost of being disabled.

Can’t wait to try this Anthropologie-inspired essential oil recipe in my diffuser.

Do you struggle with chronic pain? I was moved to tears reading about this- part 1, part 2, part 3.

These homemade lip balms would make a great gift or fun summer project with your kids.


How clever is this idea for uniquely displaying your vacation photos? I am in love!

I stayed up way past my bedtime with this fun read. You gotta get it!

The surprising mantras that can help you boost your productivity.

An easy trick for taking better phone photos.

This was a long one, but I think you should read it.

Don’t want to splurge on a manicure? This looks like the next best thing!

I hope you enjoyed our notebook, a collection of gathered links to DIY crafts, food projects, thrifty ways to spruce up your home, and thoughtful reads. Nothing brings me more joy than to highlight other fabulous bloggers. Follow me on Pinterest for daily inspiration!

Please note, there are affiliate links in this post- thank you! xoxo

Amy’s Notebook 05.15.19

May 15th, 2019


Love the notebook? Sign up for my free weekly newsletter with more incredible articles!!

How delicious do these garlic butter shrimp zoodles look for a weeknight meal?

Look at this smart solution for hanging heavy art. I can’t wait to try it!

Oh, pretty darn pumped for the next season of this show.

This was a really fascinating read!

The best 2-player board games. We are addicted to this one right now.

A healthier approach to summer drinking this year. This had some great advice!

I’ve got this in my earbuds this week. It’s REALLY good!

Also, just finished this book and can’t rave enough. #bookhangovertime

I am in the thick of it and it is HARD. (*language, folks!*)


How to make perfectly grilled salmon– so many good tips in this post.

A trick for making weekends feel longer. I love this tip.

How an Asian mom says I love you. This was beautiful!

This was a funny read! I’m not a fan either!


Turn plastic cups into adorable dancer dolls with this tutorial.

Got this gorgeous jumpsuit as a treat to myself for summer. The copper color is UNREAL gorgeous!

This had me rolling! Seriously, these are getting a little TOO targeted.

10 ways to waste less at the grocery store– love these strategies to reduce food waste.

20 recipes every cook should know. I think this would be a fun summer project to work through this list.

I have been hearing a lot about seed cycling lately. Have you tried it?

I hope you enjoyed our notebook, a collection of gathered links to DIY crafts, food projects, thrifty ways to spruce up your home, and thoughtful reads. Nothing brings me more joy than to highlight other fabulous bloggers. Follow me on Pinterest for daily inspiration!

Please note, there are affiliate links in this post- thank you! xoxo

Small-Budget Crushes 05.07.19

May 7th, 2019

Happy Mother’s Day to yourself- hahaha! Here are a few things on my wish list! xo

wireless charging backpack (great Mother’s Day gift to oneself- comes in several hues)

dog bowl water bowl

naturalizer shoes deal-of-the-day (can’t beat these prices!)

peel and stick tile (GORGEOUS!!)

classic button down (two hues and under $20!)

introverted but willing to discuss books t-shirt

floral sports bra

lace midi dress (so many colors- perfect for wedding and graduation season!)

hadley tied top (so many colors!!)

spice girl t-shirt


faux wrap bell sleeve dress (several pretty prints)

ballet back stripes

a teacher affects eternity

enchantment jumpsuit (this is perfect for weddings!!)

belted drapey joggers (so many gorgeous colors!)

fit and flare dress (use coupon code STYLE for 40% off!!)

prep college cookbook (what a great grad gift!)

color block leggings

pocket utensil set


gold accent table

one question a day book (fabulous wedding gift idea!)

pink blazer

ultra stretch jeggings (several hues and incredible reviews!!)

palm print skirt

relaxed t-shirt (so many colors!)

Keep on window shopping by visiting all of my Small-Budget Crushes. This post contains affiliate links!! xoxoxo