Thursday, April 28, 2011


I did it!! I've been saying I would learn this for well over a year and I finally did it!!

I have installed a new header on the blog, handmade by me. So if you are following along in a reader or via email, you should click on the link and come see. I'm sure I will get better as time goes on, but I thought this was pretty good for my first shot.

What do you think?

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My Day In Words

Thank you for all of the comments on my photos yesterday!

Sherry C said that it looked like I had a relaxing day. That goes to show how much photos can hide.

JulieShepler and scrapchick both mentioned that I did self-portraits or used a timer. I was lucky to have a fabulous assistant. Monkey Georgia was thrilled to be handed the camera, and not only given permission but asked to take photos of her mama. I started teaching her to use my camera and frame photos almost 2 years ago. I realized that it was the only way I was going to get in photos at times, and it has worked well. I'm impressed that a 4 year old can do such a great job with the camera!

My Monday (the day I took these photos) started 2 hours earlier than I had planned. Monkey Georgia woke up as her daddy was getting ready for breakfast and decided to eat with him (we usually sleep a little later than that). Often when she does that, she comes to my bed to snuggle me. On this day, however, she decided to stay up.

This would not have necessarily been a big deal any other day, but this was already intended to be a long day.

We had had thunderstorms all weekend, and I was concerned about flooding at our destination for the day. I called the office and learned that the parking lot was still dry so I finished up the tasks I needed to do (packing, submitting my newspaper article, etc) and we headed to our county extension office for our sewing group, Thread and Thimble.

We spent the next few hours working on the Olivia quilt that I'm making for Monkey Georgia (barely visible in the first photo). All the piecing and laying is done and I've even stitched in ditch. I still need to quilt each individual block, and the group helped me decide on a pattern. One brave soul, Vicki, even took out my stitches for me on the blocks I messed up while I quilted on others. (Yes, I know how lucky I am.)

I decided to do stars on each block for the quilting. Vicki has done stars on several of her quilts, so she could show me how it's done. We also thought that stars really sounded like Olivia's sort of thing. I also thought it would look cute, since the quilt is in blocks of red, black and white, to do the quilting in red, black and white on contrasting blocks. Unfortunately, I did not decide this until after I had done 2 blocks (hence the reason Vicki was taking out my stitches).

We got to the extension office around 11:30am for sewing group, and had lunch with the ladies. We worked on my quilt until nearly 4pm. Normally, we would have gone home at this point.

I had a class there at 6pm, though, so Monkey Georgia and I stayed there hanging out for the next 2 hours. (I realize none of this sounds especially difficult, but I was starting to get very sleepy.) Monkey Georgia had already been running circles around the office most of the day, singing at the top of her lungs. Some days she likes to help the ladies sew. Other days she likes to get her wiggles out.

During our break between the meeting and the class, the 4-H girls had their practice for the fashion show they were going to later in the week (tonight, actually. Good luck, girls!) They made their own clothes in the 4-H sewing club, and then were participating in the fashion review to show off their work. Monkey Georgia seemed utterly fascinated by these big girls and their runway practice. (I, however, silently gave thanks for never having to be that age again. I'm self-conscious enough without having to be a teenager on top of it.)

While we were waiting for our class, I pulled out my laptop so I could work on a photo book before the deal expired. (I ended up not using the deal, so I suppose that time was wasted. The photo book is completed though, so maybe a better deal will come along.)

I forgot to take out our snack (ham sandwiches from our Easter ham) until just 10 minutes before my class started. The teacher walked in as I was trying to finish my sandwich.

The class was on making wrap dolls. I had hoped that it would be something Monkey Georgia could help me do. I had a hard time understanding what we were doing though. She got a little antsy, and I handed her my camera again.

What I did not post were the extra shots that she took.

  • Her Kai-lan tag book
  • The ZhuZhu puppy (from the Easter bunny) running around on the floor
  • Her baby doll
  • My pedometer
  • the outlet plugs on the floor (actually, those are interesting - maybe I should have posted them?)
So, I know it looks like I had a relaxing day (and maybe it even sounds like it), but it was all I could do to not fall asleep on the couch as soon as we got home (at 8:30pm).

So, a picture may be worth a thousand words, but it does not always tell the whole story!

Monday, April 25, 2011

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

What I read last week:

  • Just a few magazines, and skimmed the stay-at-home-mom books that I checked out last week. I read nothing from cover to cover.

My library books last week:

Each week Barnes & Noble makes a book available for free. It is for Nook owners, but since anyone can download the Nook app (to iPhone, iPad, smart phones or PC) the books are available to anyone. I really wish I had downloaded each week before I got my Nook!
Free Nook book last week:
  • 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson - I am excited about reading this book. There have been several lately that I wasn't interested in, but this one sounds good. A teenager's favorite aunt passes away but leaves behind an adventure for her in 13 envelopes.

This post is part of "It's Monday! What Are You Reading" hosted by Book Journey.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Secret Garden

The Secret Garden was one of my favorite books as a child, but I did not have my own copy. I was constantly checking it out of our local library.

Fast forward many years and a job in a bookstore, and I now have 4 copies of The Secret Garden. One paperback that came out around the time of the musical (my favorite musical ever), one standard green hardcover, the annotated hardcover, and a lovely illustrated hardcover.

Four copies of one book, even a favorite book, is enough for anyone. Right?

I thought so too. Until I was pointed in the direction (by Posie Gets Cozy) of this new edition with an embroidered cover. It's a new Penguin Classics edition. The book will be released in October 2011. I do not know if it will be hardcover (which I tend to prefer). I doubt it will be illustrated and surely won't be illustrated with embroidery. But, oh, how pretty.

Friday, April 22, 2011

What My Child Is Reading

The books my daughter has asked to have read this week:

  • Yummy by Lucy Cousins - This fairy tale book came out about a year and a half ago, and I have wanted to get it for Monkey Georgia ever since. We are big fans of Lucy Cousins' nursery rhymes (which is out of print and we don't have our own copy) and I thought the fairy tales would be great too. This book is a collection of 6 fairy tales that all revolve around food or eating in some way (Little Red Riding Hood, Little Red Hen, Three Little Pigs, etc). These are the originals, with the wolf eating Red and Grandma and the pigs, but Monkey Georgia seems to be at an age where she understands the justice when the wolf meets his demise. I was worried about the violence but she seems to be able to handle the archetypes.
  • This Is The Sunflower by Lola M. Schaefer - Written in the style of "This is the House that Jack Built." We love sunflowers, and this was especially fun because it identities the species of birds that feast on the flower.
  • Richard Scarry's Shapes and Opposites - Richard Scarry has become popular at our house thanks to the cartoon Busytown Mysteries.
  • A Balloon for Isabel by Deborah Underwood - We're also crazy about hedgehogs and balloons which I suspect is why we came home with a book about porcupines and balloons.
These are just a few of the requested books this week. Yummy has been especially fun because she already knew some of the stories and others she's gotten into. The illustrations are large and bold. Monkey Georgia likes us to read it to her, but she also likes to turn the pages and tell herself the stories. I really need to get a copy of this.

Our library books this week:

This post is part of the meme "What My Child Is Reading" hosted by Mouse Listens, Mouse Learns.

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Springtime Spencer Magnet Articles

I wrote 2 extra articles for this week's Spencer Magnet. I am sharing the links in case you are interested in taking a look.

Babies Can Benefit from Homemade Food - I did not personally make my daughter's baby food. I really wanted to and I was really excited about it. She did not care for baby food though, and I ended up wasting a lot of jarred food because she only ate small bites of it. It would take days to get her to finish one jar. I wish I had just skipped the whole baby food dilemma (for myself) and waited to introduce solids until she was ready for table food. (And yes, she eyed my food and acted like she wanted it. Clearly, she didn't.)

For some parents, though, making baby food is lots of fun and great for their kids. I interviewed 2 local moms who have enjoyed making baby food for their children to save money and make healthier food. They used these sources for knowledge and recipes:

Active Kids Are Happy Kids - I have lots of great ideas for keeping kids active! I also quoted two authors who have mentioned in their books ways to keep kids active:

    I am a member of Amazon Affiliates. If you click on a link to a book at Amazon and then make a purchase, a small percentage will go to support this blog. Thank you.

    Easter Ideas

    We have not done any Easter crafts this year, unless you count the cards that Monkey Georgia stamped at a Homemakers meeting on Wednesday. I've even had an Easter craft book checked out of the library for weeks (last year too). I did just catch up on a bunch of posts at The Artful Parent, and she had lots of great ideas for Easter crafts. I thought I'd share hers, plus Soulemama's Easter egg post. I'm planning to cook our eggs today, and we'll decorate Easter eggs for the first time ever this weekend. We can't wait!!

    • eggs, naturally @Soulemama - Not only does she share their method for dying eggs, but gives a list of other sources
    • Decorating Our Blown Eggs @The Artful Parent - My Grandma taught us to blow eggs when I was little, although I had the impression that it was done after they were boiled. I've only recently heard about decorating the blown eggs. I wonder how hard that is to do?
    • An Easter Egg Tree @The Artful Parent - I have always wanted to do this!
    • Easter Past - A Round Up of Easter Activities @The Artful Parent - A list of Easter activities Jean has done with her kids in the past
    • Making Things for Easter by Sabine Lohf - There are a lot of fun ideas in this book. Several of them call for blown out eggs or egg shells (love the egg shell boats!).

    Happy Easter!

    Thursday, April 21, 2011

    Going to the Doctor

    Before Monkey Georgia's 4 year check-up a few months ago, I thought it might be a good idea to get her familiar with doctors. She had only been to a doctor 1 time since her 3 year check-up and I didn't want the idea to be completely unfamiliar or for her to only remember being sick.

    I checked these books out of the library for her. Not only did she love reading the books, she pulled out her little doctor kit and started doing check-ups on the whole family.

    • Too Big by Claire Masurel - Charlie wins a huge dinosaur toy at the carnival and wants to take it everywhere. It turns out that Big Tex is too big to go most places. But when Charlie has to go to the doctor, Big Tex is the only one willing to go with him.
    • Felix Feels Better by Rosemary Wells - Felix doesn't feel well and has to go to the doctor. The doctor's advice and his Mama's snuggles make Felix feel better.
    • Doctor Meow's Big Emergency by Sam Lloyd - Doctor Meow works at the Kiss It Better Hospital taking care of her patients. Then Tom Cat falls out of a tree. Monkey Georgia liked this book so much that she all but memorized the entire thing. When we found it at Half Price Books, we bought her her own copy.

    I am a member of Amazon Affiliates. If you click on an item and then make a purchase at Amazon, I will receive a small percentage. Thank you for your support of this blog.

    Wednesday, April 20, 2011

    Wild Violet Jam

    I got the idea some time ago from Soulemama to make violet jam. I do not really have access to violets at our home in Kentucky though. When I visited my parents in Georgia in late March, I found that our visit coincided with violet season, and I finally got to try making this treat. It was hit, enjoyed by all. No one expected to like it, so I think that's great praise.

    I wrote about my experience for this week's Spencer Magnet article, which you can read here:

    I found the recipe that I used in the comments on a gardeners' forum post (search for Cathy). I enjoyed collecting various sources while looking for recipes. These are a few that helped me:
    • Violet Jam @ Soulemama - I liked the sound of her recipe, but I didn't have enough local honey. Maybe next time.
    • Urban Forager/Sweet Violets @The New York Times - This isn't about jam, but I did find it interesting that someone in NYC was writing about eating "weeds."
    • Violet Jam @ Gifts From Your Kitchen - This recipe is similar to the one I used.
    • Violet Jam - This recipe uses a lime instead of a lemon. I think it would be interesting to see how the flavor is different from mine.
    PS. I mention this in the article, but just in case you don't see that: African violets are NOT true violets and and NOT edible. Please don't use them as an alternative.

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    Crocheting baby afghans

    I tried learning to crochet when I was a kid. I tried again in 2002, and made a baby afghan for a dear friend's baby. I think I completed four afghans before there was a baby boom in my immediate circle and I lost patience with crochet completely. I tried again when I was pregnant with my daughter. I started an afghan in the car on the 8 hour car ride to get to my baby shower. At that baby shower I received more than four baby afghans handmade by dear friends and family and have never picked up the one I started again!

    In the fall of 2008, I got the bug again and picked up several of my half-finished afghans. I worked for hours on each one only to realize that instead of making rectangular afghans, I was making some kind of trapeziod. I've read several books on crochet that I found at the library. I think I know where I went wrong, but after ripping apart 3 different prjects, I'm not sure I care anymore!

    One of my friends sits with me on occasion and tries to show me how to make granny squares, or chains or something, but everything always comes out cock-eyed and wider at the top than the bottom. I keep wondering if I should just give up this craft since there are so many other things I like to do and want to do (and that I actually can do).

    When I was reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, two things that she said stood out to me. One was that you should not feel like you have to do things that you aren't good at or that you don't enjoy. The other was that challenging yourself is important to happiness.

    Two conflicting ideas. . .Which is correct? I think they both are. You just have to know which is which. (Reading Jane Austen books falls into this category too.)

    I'm not sure which one crochet is yet.

    What things do you think you need to let go in order to be happy? What things do you think will make you happy by challenging yourself to do them? Do you think I'll ever learn to crochet?

    Tuesday, April 19, 2011

    Our Weekend

    We had an unusually busy weekend. (Although when I told a friend recently that I had been busy lately, she said "You're always busy." I don't know how that's possible, but it's true.)

    I've already outlined our Saturday, but I wanted to share a few details from the weekend.

    Friday, April 15

    Monkey Georgia and I went to our county's Homemakers Annual Meeting. This meeting is for members and their families. Monkey Georgia goes to nearly ALL the meetings with me, so she's an unofficial member anyway. Uhn Gi chose not to attend with us, but I noticed a lot of husbands weren't there. The entertainment for the evening was a man who impersonates Abraham Lincoln and his wife who impersonated Mary Todd Lincoln. Coincidentally, Abraham Lincoln died on April 15, 1865. MG was enthralled by this man with the beard and black top hat, and dropped her activities so she could sit on my lap and watch him.
    She also was thrilled with the 9 bean soup, and ate every drop to the astonishment of the ladies sitting nearby. I love that she's such a great eater. (I did not eat the soup because I'm not as good as she is!)

    Saturday, April 16

    I've already outlined our day. Our side trip to the zoo was completely unplanned. We knew we wanted to go sometime this weekend, because the members-only preview for the new bear exhibit was going on. Saturday was chilly and drizzley though, and Sunday was promised to be in the high 70s. Then we remembered that Thunder Over Louisville (the world's largest fireworks show and the kick-off of the Kentucky Derby Festival) was keeping the majority of the city downtown which meant the zoo should be nearly empty. We would rather brave the cold than brave the crowds! It was worth it. We had the bears practically to ourselves and we saw many of the animals up and about. The zoo is different when it is raining. I'm so glad we have a membership so we can be familiar with the animals' habits.
    We got to watch the polar bear doing some kind of shuffle-dance. He can see the seals and sea lion from his perch, and he shakes his head and shuffles back and forth. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or not, but it was neat to watch.

    Sunday, April 17

    Pancakes! We were eating pancakes or waffles nearly every weekend, but realized that wasn't necessarily a good idea. On Sunday, Uhn Gi let me sleep in while he and Monkey Georgia made pancakes for the first time in months. Yum. I pulled out the lemon-ginger curd and lime curd that I made a few weeks ago to serve with them. (I ate the curds. No one else was interested.) Double yum.
    We actually stayed home and hung out. It was nice. It seems like we're often running around, so just "chilling" is fun. Uhn Gi made one of his latest made-up recipes for dinner: stir-fry spaghetti. We're still not sure what we want to call it. It's chicken, garlic, ginger, and green beans served over whole wheat spaghetti. Also yum. Monkey Georgia loves it and requests it often. I think this is the third time he's made it in just a couple of months. A new favorite.

    How was your weekend?

    Over the Top - blog award

    Amy of Salt and Pepper Diva gave me this blog award. Thank you so much! You're so sweet!

    I have to quickly answer 35 questions, and then pass the award on to 6 others.

    1. Where is your cell phone? in my pocket
    2. Your hair? too long. I can't wait to cut it.
    3. Your mother? an arist
    4. Your father? a farmer
    5. Your favorite food? ice cream
    6. Your dream last night? that my parents had a pet tiger (Maybe I've watched a little too much Animal Planet)
    7. Your favorite drink? pina colada, coke or sweet tea
    8. Your dream/goal? to be a writer
    9. What room are you in? kitchen
    10. Your hobby? scrapbooking
    11. Your fear? not getting finished
    12. Where do you want to be in six years? published in more than 1 publication (not that I'm not grateful for that)
    13. Where were you last night? home
    14. Something you aren’t? especially tired
    15. Muffins? yum (especially strawberry)
    16. Wish list item? books
    17. Where did you grow up? Georgia
    18. Last thing you did? watched Bones
    19. What are you wearing? tank top, capris and pedometer
    20. TV? yes
    21. Your pets? cat and goldfish
    22. Your friends? great
    23. Your life? great
    24. Your mood? good
    25. Missing someone? yes
    26. Vehicle? I want a vespa
    27. Something you’re not wearing? earrings
    28. Your favorite store? fabric or books
    29. Your favorite color? periwinkle
    30. When was the last time you laughed? last time my daughter said something or during Bones
    31. When was the last time you cried? last week
    32. Your best friend? supportive
    33. One place that you go over and over? the pantry
    34. One person who e-mails me regularly? moms' group
    35. Favorite place to eat? Vietnamese restaurant

    Be sure to check out these bloggers:
    This award was actually given to me a LONG time ago - well over a year. I am not very good at keeping up with blog awards. I do appreciate them though.

    Monday, April 18, 2011

    Surprise from my Funny Girl

    Tonight I left Monkey Georgia with her daddy so I could go take a sewing class. I expected to be gone 2 hours or more, but the project was very simple and I was home within an hour and a half.

    I was greeted at the door with the words, "You have to go hide, Mommy! We have a surprise!"

    Apparently, she had asked to make something special and then decided that it was going to be a special treat for me. I'm not sure why I had to be the one hiding, but I needed to put my sewing machine away anyway so I complied.

    While I was putting my camera away, she followed me in and said, "You need to hide so you don't see the cupcakes!"

    My husband, Uhn Gi, turned around and told her that she's not very good at this surprise thing.

    Monkey Georgia got to help with each step and held the hand mixer herself (giggling the whole time, I hear).

    I am now waiting for dinner so we can eat and then try the yummy looking chocolate cupcakes that my family made for me *from scratch* (using the last of my gifted fresh eggs).

    I'll let you know how they are.

    It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

    I am participating in It's Monday! What Are You Reading? at Book Journey.

    Books I read last week:
    • Simple Wishes by Lisa Dale - I picked up this book because of the cover. It's so cute. Sunflowers, a basket, a picnic setup. Lovely. I did not even bother to read the description before I put the book in my library bag to check out. So I was pleasantly surprised when I really enjoyed reading the book. It is a romance, but does not obviously follow any kind of "romance formula." Adele ran away from home to New York in part because she did not feel loved by her mother. After making a huge mistake in the city, she comes home to face the ghosts of her past (not literally - nothing supernatural here). I do enjoy reading romance novels, but I often (not always) feel like the characters are one-dimensional and the plot is barely existent (to be fair, I feel this way about a lot of modern novels). I did not feel that way about Simple Wishes. I highly recommend this one.
    • A Family of Readers by Roger Sutton and Martha V. Parravano - I haven't finished this book yet, but I have been reading it all week. I am thinking of doing several posts on this. There's a lot to think about here. I don't always agree with the authors.

    My library books last week:
    • When Man Is the Prey edited by Michael Tougias - I am fascinated by predators. One of my current guilty pleasures is Fatal Attractions on Animal Planet about people who keep wild animals in their homes. So when I stumbled across this book on the shelf, I had to pick it up. I don't know how long I'll last, as this sounds pretty grisly. (I don't want any of those "I Should Be Dead" shows.)
    • How To Make Books by Esther K. Smith - I am interested in making books, and helping my daughter make books. This one was mentioned by Soulemama when she wrote about making books, so I thought I'd take a look.
    • You Can Write a Story by Lisa Bullard - This book is actually a creative writing book for kids. It's pretty advanced for a 4 year old, so I thought I'd read it and see if I could apply any of the information to her level.
    • A Book Takes Root: The Making of a Picture Book by Michael Kehoe - This is in picture book format, but is text heavy. I thought it would be interesting to see the process.
    • Teach Your Children Well by Christine Allison - I found this in the section of writing books while I was looking for something else. I picked it up because it is an anthology of children's stories. I haven't had a chance to look through it yet.

    I am a member of Amazon Affiliates which means that if you click on one of these book links and make a purchase at Amazon, then I will receive a small percentage. Thank you for your support of this blog.

    Sunday, April 17, 2011

    Increasing Activity

    Two years ago, I started a 10,000 steps challenge, which crumbled after 2 weeks. Partly it was because there were no participants, and partly because I couldn't keep up with the steps. I don't know if I'm really ready to start up the challenge again, but I do need to increase my activity level. Reaching 10,000 steps is just one way to gauge how active you are.

    I bring this up at all because yesterday I got 11,779 steps. I had an extremely busy day. In the morning, I taught a preschool art class. Then we went to the library, Staples (free ream of paper!), lunch (Bunz Burgers - great burger but not as good as the Brick Store in Decatur, GA), and then the zoo. Walking through the zoo always racks up the steps, even if we don't walk the whole thing (we skipped part of it to go directly to the new bear enclosure). Next, we went to Bed, Bath and Beyond, JoAnn, the mall, and Meijer, plus a stop for dinner. Super busy day. Actually, shopping at Meijer often rivals the zoo for the number of steps I'm able to get.

    It is really difficult for me to get 10,000 steps when I am at home though. Even walking my entire neighborhood does not usually get me to that level. It was much easier to get higher numbers when I had to run paperwork upstairs or take multiple trips to the printer or copy machine when I was working. That does not mean that I was more fit then, though.

    I'm finding that as Monkey Georgia gets older (she's now 4) that it is getting easier to involve her in my fitness activities. She walked the majority of the zoo herself, and did not slow me down. She and I took a walk in our neighborhood last week and I only walked marginally slower with her than I would if pushing the stroller. She loves yoga, which is one of my favorite forms of exercise. And when she sees me get out my free weights, she grabs a "weight" of her own and mimics my activity.

    Being active is good for both of us, and can create bonding moments for us as time goes by.  I know from my own experience, that sometimes it was easier to have important conversations with my mama when we were on our daily walks.

    Is anyone interested in doing a Fitness Challenge? What is your favorite form of activity? How do you keep yourself, and your kids, active?

    Saturday, April 16, 2011

    What My Child Is Reading

    Just a few of the books Monkey Georgia has enjoyed this week. The list is by no means exhaustive (that list in in our reading journal):
    • Abigail's Bedtime by Annabelle James - This book was a gift from a dear friend at one of my baby showers, and we have read it to Monkey Georgia since birth. She actually has most of it memorized. One of our favorite family jokes is "3 1/2 is a difficult age" which is a line from the book. I'm sad that the book, along with its companions, is out of print. The book is actually a bed for Abigail the doll, and we like to tuck "Abigail" in at night.
    • Bicycle for Sale by Dan Yaccarino - We are huge fans of the children's cartoon Oswald. Unfortunately, we discovered this years after the show was originally aired and all of the books are now out of print. We lucked out and found this copy at Half Price Books. (If you have any Oswald books you don't want, let me know!)
    • 101 Dalmations A Read-Aloud Storybook - While visiting Half Price Books last week, Monkey Georgia found an oversized 101 Dalmations board book that was shaped like a puppy. She begged and begged for it, but I thought the price was too high and it did not really tell the story. I finally talked her into this book that would at least give her an idea of the story. She seems satisfied with the switch (although it took some time to get to that point and she calls it "the book that isn't shaped like a dog").
    • Five Sweet Strawberries by Megan E. Bryant (Strawberry Shortcake) - This book originally belonged to my niece, who I talking into loving Strawberry Shortcake at the age of two. She's eight now, and willing to let Monkey Georgia be the Strawberry Shortcake girl now. (MG's bedroom is decorated in Strawberry Shortcake decor, as I've probably mentioned before.)

    I thought I would start sharing the books we choose at the library each week also:
    • Timothy and the Strong Pajamas by Viviane Schwarz - The illustrations are sort of a comic-style. Monkey Georgia and her aunt picked this out and read it at the library. MG asked to bring it home so we did.
    • The Three Pigs by David Wiesner - I remember a teacher reading this to us in high school (children's literature unit in my Teacher Cadet class). I had forgotten about it until it was mentioned in A Family of Readers. I think Monkey Georgia is familiar enough with the original story to enjoy this one. (Note: when introducing spoofs or reimaginings of familiar stories, it is essential that the child actually BE familiar with the original. Otherwise the joke is lost on the child.)
    • My Mommy Is Magic by Carl Norac - Yeah, I chose this one based on the title alone. I read in A Family of Readers that books like this one are for the parents, not the child because they aren't relating to the child on her level.
    • The Surprise Garden by Zoe Hall - Books about gardens are always popular in our house.
    • Carmine: A Little More Red by Melissa Sweet - Red Riding Hood retelling, I think.
    • A Trip to Dinosaur Time by Michael Foreman - Dinosaurs are popular too. We read a lot of dinosaur books.
    • Tess's Tree by Jess M. Braillier - This was on the spring books display, and I grabbed it. I love trees.
    • All The World by Liz Garton Scanlon - The illustrations are beautiful. This was in a display also.

    I will review the library books in greater detail after we read them.

    This post is part of the meme "What My Child is Reading" hosted by Mouse Learns, Mouse Grows.

    I am a member of Amazon Affiliates, which means that if you click on one of the above links and make a purchase, I will receive a small percentage. Thank you for supporting this blog.

    Friday, April 15, 2011

    Jane Austen and Me

    I started trying to read Jane Austen novels when I was about 16. I had been reading 19th century novels for years and tended to prefer them. ("Teen" lit in the 80s tended to be melodramatic or full of lessons or both. Go Ask Alice, for example, which I read but felt somewhat dirty for doing so.) I simply could not make myself read more than a few pages of Pride and Prejudice, however.

    (I have written previously of my problem with reading Jane Austen while trying to read Persuasion.)

    Last spring, I thought it might be fun to try watching a Jane Austen movie to see if I could get into the story that way. My mama had recently purchased Sense and Sensibility, and I thought it was a nice place to start.

    It took us a while to get into it, what with the unfamiliar language and the strangeness of the customs (turning the female family members out because the father dies? ridiculous!), but once we got past that the movie was wonderful. Hugh Grant was charming again (it's been a LONG time since I thought that). Hugh Laurie wasn't surly. Alan Rickman was wonderful, as always (and for once he wasn't the bad guy!!!).

    We usually enjoy comedies. We like big time romantic comedies with all the stereotypes and big laughs and happy endings. I did not expect to be so impressed with a drama. And I did not expect the drama to be funny. I even wanted to watch it over again immediately (although we didn't).

    I still could not bring myself to actually read a Jane Austen book, however. It was not until I got a Nook (Barnes & Noble's ereader) for my birthday and Pride and Prejudice was already loaded on it that I decided to buckle down and try again. I posted about my goal on Facebook, and continued to bring people updates. There was quite a bit of discussion about my finally getting around to reading it.

    The most memorable comment was that I had finally reached an age where if I don't want to read something, I don't have to read it. I think my friend was quite right, although I trudged on. (Of course, I read something similar in The Happiness Project, but the author also concedes that challenging ourselves is also a path to happiness. So I don't have to read everything I don't want to read, but sometimes it's a good thing to read something I'd rather not. I think.)

    It took me several weeks to finish P&P, which is much longer than I'm used to taking for 1 book. By the end, I still was not sure I even liked the book. Once I let it rest on my mind for a few days, I started to realize that I did like the plot and the pacing was slow but it allowed me to savor the story. I do wish I had realized that my edition had endnotes before I was halfway through, though. It would have saved a lot of confusion.

    Last week, I thought my mama and I could watch Pride and Prejudice the movie (the one with Keira Knightley, not Colin Firth). I like Keira Knightley, so I was surprised that I did not really care for the movie. It was difficult to follow, especially since things were left out. I did like the actress playing Jane very much.

    The upside is that we watched Sense ans Sensibility again and enjoyed it just as much, if not more. I did cry at the end. So sweet. I just love the look on Hugh's face toward the end. (I did wonder if Hugh Laurie was bored, since he had so little to do.)

    I still do not consider myself a Jane Austen person. I am considering reading Sense and Sensibility though.

    Are you an Austenite? Which book is your favorite?

    Craft Projects to Try

    I often use my draft feature on my blog to keep up with craft projects that catch my eye. Then I forget about them and never get around to attempting them. These projects were discovered in 2009 and promptly forgotten about. I thought I'd post them here in order to keep them front and center in my mind.

    • Cheap and Easy Produce Bags @Wisdom of the Moon - Sheer, light-weight produce bags, plus it's a thrifty project (made from thrifted sheer curtains). I really need to make these.
    • Swatch Portraits @the Purl Bee - What a simple idea for art - place a favorite fabric in an embroidery hoop and hang it on the wall. Love it.
    • Camera Strap Slipcover @Randomness by Petchy - I would like a homemade camera strap, and this tutorial is great because it's a slipcover that goes over the strap and can be switched out.
    • Camera Straps @ House on Hill Road - A couple more ideas for camera straps.
    • Friendship Bags @PS i quilt - This is similar to a bag I make, but I like the way she makes the bottom of the bag. Also: polka dots!
    • Fairy Tale Quiet Book Pattern @Making Ends Meet - This is a pattern for purchase for a quiet book. The book is cloth with interactive pieces and very cute.

    What projects have you wanted to try but put off?

    Thursday, April 14, 2011

    Keywords, SEO and a Request

    I find keyword searches to be one of the funniest things about blogging. You write and write about things that interest you, and then find that most people visit your blog based on a throw-away post you did a long time ago. (Case in point, I still get a lot of traffic for a post I did 2+ years ago about a contest being sponsored at another blog. I'm sure none of that traffic is "sticky.")

    I don't really write here with SEO in mind (search engine optimization). My philosophy is that if I am writing authentically and honestly, that my keywords will be organic. I've done some work with SEO for another site, and I found the keywords to be limiting and difficult to use. As a search engine user, I know that I am often NOT looking for the exact words I am searching in that exact order and if I do find them that way, I don't click on the link. (For example, I do not typically click on eHow, yahoo answers, or any of the other known content mills.)

    I recently looked through the keywords that have been used to find my blog, and found that the terms have remained fairly consistent over time. People tend to find my blog by looking for:

    • pretzel rolls
    • strawberry shortcake cakes
    • doll cloth diapers
    • easter dresses
    • child's purse
    • paper hats
    • kids' art displays
    • playsilks

    Most recently, lime marmalade has been added to the mix. (I hope that post isn't a huge disappointment!)

    I am wondering, what brings you to visit? I write in part for myself and in part to remember, but I also write to interest readers of this blog. What would you like to see me explore? I would like to incorporate your ideas in future posts.

    Leave a comment letting me know what you'd like to see. If you are not comfortable leaving a comment, feel free to email me. I should have a working email address in my profile now.

    Dandelions As Food

    I became fascinated with eating dandelions last spring. Fascinated, but not willing. Even though I wrote an article about eating dandelions in May, I could not bring myself to actually taste them.

    This year, I thought I should put my dandelions where my mouth is. (Or something like that.) I made dandelion cookies using a recipe I found online. I found the same recipe in multiple places. I'm not entirely sure where it originated.

    I also tried making dandelion jelly. There are a lot of recipes available, but the one I used is from Prairieland Herbs. I have found that a lot of times when I go back to find a recipe, it is gone. I will share the recipe with the steps that I followed. The original is at the above link, and if you have questions, it is the place to go. (The directions here are more or less mine.)

    In the Spencer Magnet this week, I shared my experiences making both dandelion cookies and dandelion jelly. I also shared the dandelion cookie recipe that I used. I did not like that recipe, however, and I plan to try making dandelion cookies again with one my cookie recipes.

    Dandelion Jelly

    2 heaping cups of fresh dandelion petals
    2 cups boiling water
    1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
    4 cups sugar
    3 ounces pectin

    Dandelions must be washed well (ants seem to like them a lot). Once washed, remove the yellow petals from the green cap and stem. (I spent hours and hours pulling them out by hand and then realized that it was much easier and quicker to snip the yellow off with kitchen scissors. Now I know.)
    Place petals in a bowl with a lid (I used a Pyrex bowl). Boil the 2 cups of water and pour it over the petals. Cover and steep for 2-24 hours. (I think I steeped mine for a little over 24 hours.) Strain the infusion, reserving the liquid and discarding the petals.
    The directions then said that the infusion can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours before making the jelly, but I think I waited 2 days. I have not noticed that it was a problem.
    The infusion I had was very dark and smelled very strongly of weeds. I almost threw it away, but decided that this was an experiment and I needed to follow it through.
    I placed my jars in a stock pot with enough water to cover them, and turned the burner on medium high. The jars needed to be hot so they didn't break when filled with hot jelly, and sterilized for the canning process.
    Pour the infusion into a pot, and add the sugar and lemon juice. Bring to a rolling boil. Add the liquid pectin and continue to boil for 2 minutes. (The directions say to skim off the foam. I missed this step. It's fine for my jelly, but I can't enter it in the fair now.)
    Ladle jelly into jars, place lid and ring on. Once all the jars were filled, I placed them back in the stock pot, put the lid on and processed them in a water bath for 10 minutes. When the 10 minutes were up, I turned off the heat and removed the lid. After about 20 minutes, I removed the jars from the pot and let cool.

    I did not get this recipe from a certified source, so I can't say for sure that this recipe could be processed by a water bath. If you aren't comfortable with it, use another recipe or freeze the jelly. Or use it up quickly. I got 5 8-ounce jars from this recipe and did not want to take up the extra space in my refrigerator. Also, I really want to share a jar with my little brother who has been eating weeds for many years. (wink)

    I hope to link the Spencer Magnet article here when it becomes available.

    Wednesday, April 13, 2011

    Gluten Free Living

    My friend Sarah Fauber of RiverSong Farm taught a class on gluten free living last weekend through our county's  SOS program. I attended the class, and wrote an article for the Spencer Magnet about it. (To clarify, we met through my work for the paper, and I enjoy her company. I did not start out writing articles about my friend!)
    I have many friends and acquaintances who have gluten sensitivity. I'm sure they all know far more than I do about gluten, but I hope that this article serves to educate those who are unfamiliar.

    Things That Caught My Eye Lately

    Just a few things that have caught my eye lately that I thought others would enjoy.

    • Canning 101: How to Pack Jars for Shipping @Food In Jars - I was under the impression that jars of jelly or jam or pickles couldn't be shipped. I was thrilled to see this post on how to pack them.
    • JK Rowlings' Harry Potter Prequel - This is probably for die-hard fans only. Rowling wrote an 800 word prequel for a charity benefit some time back, and I JUST found out about it.
    • Elements of a Successful Fiction Platform by Christina Katz @ Writer's Digest - Platform building is increasingly important in the current publishing atmosphere, even for fiction writers. Since I do a little of everything, I'm paying attention.
    • How to Make Baking Extracts by Eugenia Bone @ Denver Post - A detailed explanation of making vanilla, lemon and candy-cap mushroom extracts.
    • Giveaway: Rip the Page! Adventures in Creative Writing @What Do We Do All Day? - I've been reading this blog for a long time (in blog years) and always enjoy her posts. Mom has a giveaway going until April 24 for Rip the Page! which sounds like a great book for working with kids on story writing. I'm really into book making right now, so this caught my eye and I wanted to share it.
    • Purse Organizer Recipe @ The Giving Flower - This actually caught my eye some time ago, but I keep forgetting to share it. Detailed directions for making a purse organizer.
    • Wooden Looms @CraftSanity - This caught my eye a long time ago, too. I was looking for looms for my niece and came across these.

    (The book link does go to Amazon. I am a member of Amazon Affiliates. If you click on the link and make a purchase at Amazon, I receive a small percentage. Thank you for supporting this blog.)

    Tuesday, April 12, 2011

    Spencer Magnet Articles update

    Since I was out of town at the end of March and beginning of April, I did not get a chance to post my Spencer Magnet articles for 2 weeks. I thought I would post all of them together rather than spreading it out (especially since I will have more out this week).

    • Watergate Salad a cool treat for anytime of the year - This salad is based on pistachio pudding and contains fruit. The recipe is not included online, so I will share it below. The printed recipe did not include sizes of ingredients, and I don't think it matters all that much. So much is to taste. I will include amounts though, for those who like exact measurements.
    • Quilters' Day Out - This was SO much fun to attend, and I wish I could have been there longer (I had lunch plans with the family or I would have tried to stay). I'm glad that I have the excuse of being a "reporter" so I can attend things like this. It was so much fun to run into so many of my friends that I've made through different Homemaker groups. I actually introduced people who have lived here for year but have never met! And I saw so many ideas that I would like to try. There was one quilt pattern in particular that I am looking to get now.
    • Extra Hands Needed at Lifelong Learning Center - This article is part of my "volunteering" series, where I am highlighting opportunities in our community for people to volunteer. Many of these organizations have so far been state-wide or national, so please look for similar opportunities where you live.
    • Making Yeast Bread the focus of recent SOS class - This was such a wonderful class, and I learned a lot. I actually got the opportunity to try kneading the dough, which was fun but harder than it looked. (I need to see if there is an heirloom bread board in my family and if no one is using it. Otherwise, where do I find a bread board?) I have not had a chance to try making bread yet, since I left town a few days later. Also, I WON a loaf of the bread in the class. Minnie is a wonderful baker, so I was thrilled. It's in my freezer awaiting a special occasion. I don't think the recipes showed up on this article either.
    The yeast breads article was in two parts. I can't tell how it's showing up on the website, but I'm only seeing the headline once.

    The Spencer Magnet has gone to a subscription service for online content although some content is still free. I would like to continue posting the links here, and trying to tell some of the story behind the article. I hope this is interesting to you, even if you can't see the articles.

    Watergate Salad

    1 16 ounce can crushed pineapple
    1 box pistachio pudding
    2 cups mini marshmallows
    3/4 cup chopped pecans
    1 8 ounce carton cool whip

    Mix all ingredients together. Chill before serving.

    Monday, April 11, 2011

    It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

    I am participating in the It's Monday! What Are You Reading? meme hosted by Book Journey.

    I didn't participate in this meme last week because I was out of town March 28-April 5 and did not do any book reading. I read a few magazine articles and that was it. I haven't actually finished anything since I have been home, but I'll share the books I have skimmed the last few days.

    • Nurtureshock: New Thinking About Children by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman - I have wanted to read this book for a long time and was disappointed that I didn't finish it before it had to go back to the library. I first learned about this book when I read an article about it in the New York Times. I made a note to blob about that article eventually, but I still haven't done it. I liked much of this book because I learned that the science the book discusses backs up some of my beliefs. I plan to get my hands on this book again and blog about it in detail. (Lucky you!)
    • A Family of Readers: The Book Lover's Guide to Children's and Young Adult Literature by Roger Sutton and Martha V. Parravano - This book is written by the editors of The Horn Magazine. I thought it would be a lot like some of the other "book list" books that I have read (all of the Book Lust books by Nancy Pearl, How to Get Your Child to Love Reading, etc). Instead, it is divided into sections based on the type of reading ("Reading to Them," "Reading With Them," "Reading On Their Own"), and then within each section are chapters on types of books (picture books, easy readers, etc). There are lists of books to try, but not nearly as many as in actual "book list" books. The book is primarily essays by authors, illustrators, editors and book reviewers. It might be off-putting to some, but as a writer and a book-lover, I am finding a lot of great information. I really should do a full review when I've finished (I've got at least 3 weeks with this book).
    • Roots, Shoots, Buckets and Boots by Sharon Lovejoy - I really enjoy Sharon's books. I'm trying to find a way to make the sunflower house that she suggests without a tiller. The book is lovely, with Lovejoy's illustrations and the pages with a hint of color.

    Well, that's pretty much it for this week.I thought I would share the books I picked up from the library that I haven't read yet. These are just for me. I thought I'd start sharing my daughter's library books too, but those are in the post about what we read to her.

    • Stay Home, Stay Happy: 10 Secrets to Loving At-Home Motherhood by Rachel Campos-Duffy - I have never watched Real World, but apparently the author was a cast member on the San Francisco season. The title caught my eye, so I thought I would check it out.
    • The Stay-At-Home Survival Guide by Melissa Stanton - This one was next to the first one, so I thought I'd look through it too.
    • The Birthday Book: Creative Ways to Celebrate Your Child's Special Day by Shelly Radic - This book came up during a search for something else, and sounded intriguing. I'm interested in books with fresh ideas for family traditions. It is apparently out-of-print.
    • Making A Family Home by Shannon Honeybloom - This book came up multiple times on Amazon for me - when I searched for another book, as an Amazon recommendation, etc - and I was able to get on the waiting list for it at the library. The reviews I saw talked about it being photo heavy without much content, so I was surprised to find few photos and lots of text. I haven't had time to do more than skim the pages though.

    What have you been reading this week?

    I am a member of Amazon Affiliates, so if you click on any of the above links to Amazon and then make a purchase I receive a small percentage. Thank you for supporting this blog.