What I’m Into: October 2014

October leaves

playing in leaves

October garden

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI can’t even begin to talk about October without first making this important PSA: if you are experiencing any kind of back trouble, whether related to pregnancy or anything else, consider chiropractic care. Even if you don’t have insurance and will have to pay for it out of pocket. Even if you’re broke.

I mentioned last month that I was suffering from debilitating back pain related to my pregnancy. Seriously, you guys: I could hardly move. Getting out of bed and climbing down the stairs in the morning pretty much wiped me out for the day. I couldn’t get groceries, couldn’t cook . . . couldn’t do any of the daily household tasks that needed to be done. I was miserable and helpless so the whole family was miserable and hopeless. And we were ordering in dinner every night, which we totally can’t afford. I was panicking, because I didn’t know how I could possibly deliver a baby in a few months when already in this much pain.

So we decided it could hardly cost us more to go see a chiropractor. We sucked it up and I used my piddly savings from my blog’s ad revenue to see if my sister’s chiropractor could help me.

The first couple of weeks didn’t seem to help much, though my chiropractor seemed able to pinpoint exactly which vertebrae and joints were giving me trouble. I was feeling discouraged. Three $30 appointments a week were draining the bank account pretty fast. I stuck to it, though, and soon I started to feel better.

And now, four weeks later, I’m as good as new! I literally feel no more pain whatsoever. I can walk with my daughter to the park, climb stairs without thinking about it, and I’m on my feet most of the day again without trouble. The only reason I remember I’m carrying 30-odd extra pounds is because I get out of breath if I move too quickly.

So all that is to say: I’m so glad we went ahead and saw a chiropractor! Totally worth it. I am a firm believer now. My quality of life is improved a hundredfold, and we don’t have to order in crappy food every night.

Okay, moving on!


During my last pregnancy, I probably read at least two books a month on pregnancy, birth, or infant care for the duration of my pregnancy. So that was, like, eighteen books. Plus a ton of internet reading. This time around, aside from some refreshers on pregnancy nutrition, I hadn’t read a thing.

I’m due next month (late November), so I thought I’d re-read Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth (Ina May Gaskin) — the book that sealed the deal on home birth for me last time. (Oh yeah, if you didn’t already know — I’m planning on another midwife-attended home birth this time around. I sometimes forget that people give birth anywhere else. Hoping for a water birth!) It’s just so comforting and inspiring. My anxiety about this birth has decreased since re-reading it. I believe my body can do it. I was made for this. Thanks, Ina May!

I also decided to try out The Nesting Place (Myquillyn Smith), just because everyone on the internet is going crazy over it. I had to wait months to get it from the library, it’s in such high demand. Turns out the timing is just wrong for me right now. With a new baby coming, interior design just isn’t on the forefront of my mind. And I felt like the opening chapters were just . . . stating really obvious things? But the latter chapters are more interesting, and the photos inspiring . . . I’m suddenly inspired to make some textured wreaths and sunburst mirrors for our house. In between gathering birth supplies and attending midwife appointments and freezing meals, of course.

Children’s Books

flora and the flamingo

We happened upon Flora and the Flamingo (Molly Idle, 2013) at the library recently. What a stunning find! It’s another gorgeously-illustrated wordless book with a unique twist — it has interactive flaps to help tell the story about a little girl learning to dance with a graceful flamingo. The artist is a former DreamWorks animator and you can totally tell.

It is, however, a very delicate book, what with all the white space and manipulable flaps; at three, Lydia is a little young to be trusted with it completely unsupervised. I’ve kept it on a high shelf and only allowed her to look at it when she asks. I would recommend it for slightly older children — maybe four or five. Little girls (especially aspiring ballerinas) will love this beautiful, charming book.

Little Oink

Back in March, I shared our love for the books Little Pea and Little Hoot. I remembered that there was a third one in the series out there somewhere, and I requested it through inter-library loan.

Little Oink (Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Jen Corace) is just as funny and cute as the first two. This time, it’s about a neat little pig who likes to keep his room tidy, but his parents tell him he has to mess it up before he can go play. The illustrations are lovely and just as chuckle-inducing as the text. Ben and I enjoy this book as much as Lydia does.


We started watching Veronica Mars (from 2004) on Netflix last month and weren’t crazy-impressed. It seemed a little cheesy and relied too heavily on narration in those first few episodes. But Leigh Kramer insisted we keep going, so we watched a few more episodes.

I’m so glad we did! We LOVE this show! We watched an episode almost every night until we finished season one. Spectacular! A very intriguing plot and wonderfully complex and interesting characters. There’s scandal and murder and intrigue but it’s not dark and gory like many shows these days. There’s witty banter and familial love and high school drama in there, too. Thanks for the push, Leigh!


We watched The Secret Life of Walter Mitty on Netflix this month. Overall, we really enjoyed it. It’s funny and weird and has a happy ending. You get to see beautiful landscapes and it will make you want to travel the world and go on adventures.

With the Munchkin

One of the most fun things we did this month was just walk around the neighbourhood collecting leaves for crafts. Okay, so I was more into it than she was; but she ended up liking holding the basket. And it was good to get out of the house.

Beach sand play dough

I made this sand play dough for her, which she loves. I just had coarse commercial sand on hand — not beautiful, fine, Florida beach sand like in the original tutorial — but it still gives it a really neat texture and weight, and is fun with sea shells.sharpies on foil

Another fun and easy fall-back activity that Lydia loves is coloured Sharpies on aluminum foil. The foil makes the colours glow, and just offers a slightly different experience.

marker holder made with plaster of paris. Keep markers off the floor and capped!

And lastly, I made her this plaster marker holder, with instructions from The Artful Parent (Jean Van’t Hul). Like most kids, Lydia loves colouring with markers, but she always left the markers and caps scattered all over the floor. This was both irritating and it quickly ruined the markers. With this pretty new holder, she is much more likely to put her markers back where they belong. No mess, no drying out. WIN.

Linking up with Leigh Kramer!

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What I’m Into: September 2014


little pumpkins


September was mostly terrific. There was harvesting and preserving; we celebrated the autumnal equinox; and we read some good books.

Last week I injured my back (I’m in the third trimester of my pregnancy) and have been pretty much out of commission since; so I have a feeling the next couple of months won’t be as eventful. I’m hoping some chiropractic care can at least get me back on my feet. We’ve also been dealing with some pretty serious extended family issues, which has been hard on all of us; so it hasn’t all been pretty pumpkins and walks in the leaves.

But here’s what we’ve been into!


September books: Killing Monsters and Artful Parent

Killing Monsters: Why Children Need Fantasy, Super Heroes, and Make-Believe Violence – Gerard Jones.

Two words: Absolutely phenomenal.

Killing Monsters is one of the most interesting books I’ve read all year. Intriguing and elegantly written. Very challenging and very compelling. I’m a tough customer on this book’s premise, as a pacifist and a general hater of commercial entertainment. But Jones had me seriously rethinking my views on violent cartoons and video games. I know, right?

What struck me most, throughout the book, was his intense empathy for children. It’s central to everything he writes. He’s a true role model. I highly recommend this book to anyone invested in children’s development, especially if you’re interested in the effects of media. You will be surprised and challenged.

The Artful Parent: Simple Ways to Fill Your Family’s Life with Art and Creativity – Jean Van’t Hul

I’ve gotten some good ideas from the author’s blog recently, so I suspected I would love her book. And I did! I skipped a lot of the (kinda boring) introductory stuff (I feel pretty artful already); but took notes on her recommendations for art materials. And I loved the activity ideas that comprised the latter half of the book. We already tried a few and I have plans to try lots more.

And I love that the book includes beautiful photos. I’m way more inclined to try an activity or recipe it’s got a picture.

Kids’ Books

Over the last few months, most of our library visits have produced pretty meh findings. But this month we got an incredible haul!

Kevin Henkes

For starters, we discovered Kevin Henkes. We just stumbled upon them at the library. His books happen to be perfect for Lydia’s age (three). Not too wordy, but rich and evocative text. His illustrations are simple and beautiful. My personal favourite from the bunch is Old Bear, about a bear who dreams about the seasons while he hybernates (so cozy and lovely); Lydia’s is Penny and Her Doll (about a little mouse trying to find the perfect name for her new doll). Kittens’ First Full Moon (about a kitty who chases the moon, thinking it’s a bowl of milk) is a Caldecott Medal winner.

Hank Finds an Egg

And then we found Hank Finds an Egg (Rebecca Dudley), which might be the cutest picture book in the history of the world. It doesn’t have any text, it just tells a story through images. It’s made up of photographs of miniature handmade scenes, with breathtaking detail. Every leaf and twig is handmade. And look at little Hank! You¬† can see every stitch that holds him together. Isn’t he the most adorable thing you’ve ever set eyes on?! The story is sweet and heartwarming.


We mostly took a break from TV this month. We tried Veronica Mars on Netflix but weren’t totally taken by it. And then we watched the season premieres of our favourite shows (Big Bang Theory, Mindy Project) which were fun as usual.


We re-watched Megamind (with Will Ferrell), and MAN, I love that movie. It is just so clever and wonderful. One of my favourite romance stories ever. I don’t know why it just tickles me. Come to think of it, every movie Will Ferrell has done for children (Elf, Lego Movie) are among my favourites.

With the Munchkin


I recently got Lydia some new coloured pencils, since she’s so into drawing. I love these particular pencils: the triangular shape means they don’t roll around and fall onto the floor while she’s working; they’re high-quality, with beautiful vibrant colours; and they’re eco-friendly, too! Oh, and she loves them, too!

I thought they deserved a nice holder, to encourage Lydia to take good care of them and not leave them all over the place. So I made this wool felt pencil roll, based loosely on this tutorial (I only did single layers, though. Wool felt is expensive!)

To encourage her to put away her pencils, I told her these were their beds and they needed to go to bed every night. Unfortunately, I hadn’t foreseen how she would assume that just like in real life, everyone would want to share beds. She stuffs them all into just a few pockets. So much for orderly. *Sigh.*

But at LEAST it keeps them off the floor. So: win!

Spider web capture. Spray paint a spider web, then lift with black cardstock.

We also did this spider web capture activity, which was pretty cool. Next time I’d like to try using a brighter colour.

Linking up, once again, with Leigh Kramer!

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What I’ve Been Up To (Instead of Blogging)

Man! It has been so busy around here! I thought I’d share a few pictures in lieu of a real blog post. So that you can see I’m not just being lazy.

Harvest from the garden . . .

onions1Onions curing in the sun!

squashLast year was lousy for squash, but we got a good haul this year!

pumpkinsAnd look at all these PUMPKINS! (And some spaghetti squash). These excite me to no end because we grew them from seeds I saved from a couple of heirloom pumpkins (red Cinderella and and gray Jarrahdale) I bought last year. I’d never saved seeds before. There’s something thrilling about watching two pumpkins turn into twenty. And look how gorgeous they are! They have thick, delicious flesh, too, which will be turned into pies and muffins throughout the winter.

Please note: I think some people are under the impression that I am doing this stuff all by myself. FAR FROM TRUE. I garden with my mom at her house. She’s been gardening for decades and has lots of excellent land to do it on. During spring and early summer, I go over there once a week to help plant, sow, weed, hoe, and pick a few things to take home. During the late summer and fall, I go over there two or three times a week to help harvest and preserve. It’s usually when we butcher, too. Last year we did hogs, because that’s what my parents raised; this year they raised meat chickens. I have to go back next week to do the last ten with my mom.

At our own home, we raise four hens for eggs and an herb garden. That’s it.

Anyway, we did all this canning this week:

tomatoesDiced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and salsa. My mom’s been doing additional canning like a madwomen in the evenings when my sister and I are not there. She’s insane, and also awesome. We still want to put in another day or two.

Anyway, all this work is made a bit more taxing due to all this extra weight I’m carrying:

28 weeks

Yeepers! I still have three months to go! How huge am I going to get?! I’ve been huffing and puffing for weeks already, and my hips are starting to get achy. I was about this size at nine months when I gave birth to Lydia, so . . . this is uncharted territory for me. (Ben conveniently cropped out my badonkadonk, so you can’t see how much weight I have gained in the lower region of my body.)

And for fun, on the weekend the three of us went to see WALK OFF THE EARTH in concert!! (I went a little crazy talking about the band here.) They were playing at a venue less than an hour away, and we’re all huge fans, including Lydia. She knows all the members’ names and likes to imitate Sarah in Material Girl and drum on the hood of the van like the guys in Gang of Rhythm.

Walk Off the Earth concert

It was an outdoor concert, and we had a hard time finding a babysitter, and we really though Lydia would enjoy it. So we took a risk in taking her. It went great! She was a little overwhelmed by the volume and lights. This is how her face looked throughout most of it:

watchingAnd when they sent huge balloons out into the crowd, she cried because she couldn’t have one. Until someone handed her one! Then she was thrilled. It made her night.


familySo things have been busy, but good. So, so good. I’m overwhelmed with the blessings in my life right now. I hope you are doing well, too!

What I’m Into: August 2014

Lydia three years

harvesting honey

honey comb frames

harvesting honey 2


canning tomatoes

August never fails to be a full month. It’s always the busiest time for harvesting and preserving.

Just in the last week, I was over at my parents’ house helping to harvest potatoes and onions, pick and can tomatoes, butcher meat chickens, and harvest honey. (We still have lots more canning to do.)

We also celebrated Lydia’s third birthday and our ninth anniversary this month. Oh, and I’ve reached the third trimester with this pregnancy! Entering the home stretch!

So much work! So much fun!

On to the Stuff I’ve Been Into!


10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works–A True Story (Dan Harris).

I’ve been feeling for a while that meditation might be a key element that’s missing from many of our daily lives, which, if practiced, could vastly improve our physical and emotional health. (And, by the way, I believe it can be perfectly compatible with Christianity.)

So when my friend Rebecca practically begged me to read this book exploring meditation from a non-spiritual perspective, I thought I’d give it a try.

First thing to note about this book is that the writing is absolutely superb. So much so, that I couldn’t shake the suspicion it was ghost-written. I know professional writers who have had their work published for years who don’t write this well. Very absorbing and bitingly clever.

This book is more of a memoir than a self-help book. Harris traces his journey into meditation from cynic to awkward evangelist. I really valued the chapters exploring the science that is beginning to demonstrate meditation’s impressive power to transform the brain. The practice actually strengthens parts of the brain in ways that can be seen through brain scans, increasing an individual’s capacity for contentment and self-control. Cool stuff.

He gets a little into how-to’s, but I would really like to go deeper into how to practice meditation. Any recommendations? I’m also deeply interested in any books that might explore Christian meditation.


Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) (Mindy Kaling).

Ben and I kind of went on an obsessive spree watching The Mindy Project this month (more on that below), so I was eager to check out Kaling’s book and get to know the brain behind the show that had so captivated our attention.

This book is fun, quick, light reading. It’s terribly smart and funny, just like the author. I particularly enjoyed the early chapters about her childhood and how she got into comedy writing, eventually landing her job writing for The Office. Some of the essays later in the book are witty and illuminating, too, though a few of them kind of bored me.

I really wished that the book was more recent — at its writing, she hadn’t even begun The Mindy Project. I would have LOVED to learn more about the show and how it came to be. Regardless, it was very interesting to get a glimpse of the person behind the show. I think it really helped me to better understand what she’s trying to do with the story, too.


As I mentioned, we got a little obsessed with The Mindy Project and binge-watched the second half of the first season and then the entire second season. It is so good, you guys. Absolutely hilarious. Especially the last episode of season two. It made me happy for a week.

And if you find yourself in the middle of season two thinking, “Man, there is a lot of sex in this show. Does anyone know how to have a relationship? Is this all this show is about? Why does everyone suck so much?” . . . I feel you. I felt the same way sometimes. But I really think Kaling is trying to do something that you’ll only really get once you’ve watched all the way through. Either way: the last episode makes it all worthwhile.


We scored some free movie tickets that expired this month, so we went out to see Guardians of the Galaxy. I love (almost) all the Marvel movies, and this one didn’t disappoint. The opening scene actually made me bawl like a baby, but I was quickly swept up by the humour, action, clever plot, and awesome special effects. And as usual, completely lovable characters. Even the green lady, the tree-man, and the raccoon. I loved them all.

And we’ve continued to occasionally watch classic romances I’ve never seen. This month it was When Harry Met Sally. It was all right. Funny and awkward and sweet. It really took me a while to warm up to both Harry and Sally, though.

With the Munchkin

Sandpaper letters

We’ve started to work with the sandpaper letters I made last month. As you can tell from the pictures, Lydia loves them! In stages, we’ve learned 8 different letters so far with their phonetic sounds, using the three-period lesson. Sometimes we practice writing them. Here, you can see her playing the little game I made up — I’ve drawn pictures of things that start with the letters on little sticky notes, and she matches them up with the right sound. She adores this game. Little nerd.

That’s what I’ve been up to! How about you?

As usual, linking up with Leigh Kramer.

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What I’m Into: July 2014

feet at beach





So Summer is 2/3 over for us. The season of swimming at the beach, swinging at the park, and fresh garden produce covering every inch of kitchen counter space. Why must it ever end?

We went vacationing with my family . . . we stayed in a cabin up north in Tobermory, Ontario, where the water is icy-cold and crystal blue. I got a chance to do lots of reading out on the porch. It was lovely.

And here’s what I’ve been into!



Hyperbole and a Half (Allie Brosh) — like everyone who’s ever been on the Internet, I’ve read and LOVED Allie’s brilliant and hilarious blog. When I saw that my brother owned a copy of the book I took it home and read it in two days. Some of the content is from the blog and still every bit as funny. And the new stuff absolutely slew me. It’s a very quick read, on account of all the pictures. Pure fun. (Also: language.)

A Faith Not Worth Fighting For: Addressing Commonly Asked Questions About Christian Nonviolence (Ed. Tripp York and Justin Bronson Barringer) — You guys, this book has been hard for me to read. Not because it’s too academic or too abstract — it’s not — but because it’s very compelling. And it makes me wonder if I really want to follow Jesus that much after all, because he asks a LOT of us. I’m not sure I want to give up my life. I’m not sure if I can do it. And at the same time, the message is so captivating and beautiful . . .

This collection of essays tackles all of the most common arguments against Christian pacifism, from “What would you do if someone attacked a loved one?” to “What about Hitler?” Each chapter is written by a different author, so each one has its own unique voice and perspective. It’s very readable while still being academically robust. And in reading it, I’m torn between not wanting to be a true follower of Jesus because it sounds so demanding and feeling like I couldn’t possibly do otherwise.

Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child (Anthony Esolen) — This is the first nonfiction book in a while that I’ve actually found addictive. I couldn’t put it down. It’s exciting, challenging, and provocative. I was totally hooked from the first page. And while I didn’t agree with nearly everything in the book — I basically skipped the whole chapter on patriotism — I was definitely challenged in a lot of my ideas about education. He really got me to re-think my aversion to rote memorization and grammar lessons.

Esolen writes from the perspective of someone who wants to kill children’s imaginations — a la C. S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters — and thus explores ways to do that: keep them indoors, keep them under constant supervision, keep them endlessly busy, etc. It’s a very interesting trope, though he often seems to forget what he’s doing and gets rapturous describing the things he’s supposedly fighting against (spending time in nature, reading great literature, etc.) Also: he writes like a mid-century Oxford professor. Which is strangely refreshing — I’m a huge Lewis fan, after all — but it also means he writes from a very andro-centric, euro-centric perspective, which is mildly annoying. I kept having to check back at the date of publication to reaffirm that it was, in fact, published in 2010. He makes jabs at feminists and truly believes all the best literature in history was written by white men. Weird. Oh well.

Children’s Books


I recently started to think that at almost-three, maybe I should expand Lydia’s spiritual education beyond mealtime prayers and loving example. I thought it might be a good idea to introduce her to the characters and stories of the Bible. So I pulled out a children’s Bible I’d bought for her a year ago — The Beginner’s Bible. I had one like it when I was a kid.

Lydia absolutely loves it, and has spent tons of time poring over the pictures; but honestly, I am not a fan at all and plan to get rid of it once her fascination wanes. It makes all the stories seem too cutesy and cartoonish. It does not inspire one with a sense of wonder and awe. All of the fish in the pictures have big googly eyes and are grinning. Even the ones Jesus multiplies for the five thousand. What the crap? And look how Goliath is hanging out innocently with David, Jesus, and the other Bible characters on the front cover. How does that make sense?

Jesus is introduced as a nice dude who likes kids, who fixes owies and brings people back to life.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJesus is all, “Hey! Wanna be pals? We can live in the clouds together!”

I’m not crazy about the theology, either — the dictionary at the back defines a Christian as some who “believes Jesus has forgiven their sins and will someday live with him forever in heaven.” There’s a lot of emphasis throughout on how we’re going to go live with Jesus in heaven someday. Um. Not exactly the dominant message I’m trying to send my child. “Believe the right things and you can live in the clouds where everything is awesome!”

I was relieved to see that the floods and wars and other horrific violence weren’t present — I still feel she’s too young for those kinds of things — but it kind of made me question what exactly I do want her to know from the biblical stories.

I don’t know. I don’t know what kind of literature would be the best for instilling a sense of reverence for God and a love for goodness and God’s beloved creation. Perhaps the Bible is out entirely until she’s older? Suggestions?

Moving on . . .

Harold and the Purple Crayon (Crockett Johnson) — this book is delightfully original and imaginative. The word play is clever but simple enough for a three-year-old to enjoy. Thanks to this book, Lydia has added a number of new words and phrases to her vocabulary, such as “frightening” and “drop off to sleep.” I love it. The only downside is that it has inspired Lydia to colour on walls with purple crayons.


Arabella Miller’s Little Caterpillar (Clare Jarrett) — lovely illustrations, pleasant rhythm/rhyme, learning about the life cycle of butterflies. What’s not to love?


No movies here! It’s summer, remember?


OK, so we have been watching some TV. Ben lured me into watching the first episode of The Mindy Project, and we’ve gotten pretty far into the first season already. That show is hilarious. I love what a charmingly complex character Mindy is — she’s intelligent, confident, and independent; but also often silly, gullible, and melodramatic. The jokes fly so quickly you’re not even done laughing at the first one before you’re laughing at the next. Very addictive.

With the Munchkin

I spent way way too much time working on these sandpaper letters for Lydia.

Montessori sandpaper lettersThey’re inspired by the popular Montessori material meant to aid children in learning the phonetic alphabet. You introduce each letter not by its name but by its phonetic sound, and have the child trace over the letter while she repeats the sound. The tactile experience is supposed to help her associate the sound with certain muscular movements, which will be helpful in writing. (I followed this tutorial.)

Anyway, cutting out the letters from sandpaper took a million years. Fortunately we did most of it while watching Mindy Project.

We also tried this craft — making flower mandala sun catchers. The result was pretty, but I’ll have you know that Lydia whined and complained through every stage of their creation.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThat was my month! How about yours?

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Linking up with Leigh Kramer.

Slowing Down for Summer

StratfordSuperfluous picture of me and Ben in Stratford (Ontario)

It happens every summer.

Around June, a restlessness starts to shake my bones.

I need to get out and engage the world — the real, solid, material world.

After months of snow and darkness and cold, the sun is finally in the sky from early morning until night, beckoning me to come out and play.

I need to dig. I need to plant and tend. I need to swim. Walk. Smell. Cook. Preserve. Eat.

The garden needs constant attention. The food coming out of it needs to be preserved. The sun rays need to be caught before they slip away (because they always do way too soon.)

In summer, I have very little interest in sitting in front of a computer.

Even when I’m inside, I’m itching to get to projects — crafts and sewing and painting and creating. There’s finally enough light in the day to see a project through from beginning to end in a single day!

Reflecting and reading and writing in front of a screen can wait until winter.

So while I was already somewhat quiet around here during the spring due to morning sickness, I suspect I’ll continue to be quiet during the summer. Due to it being summer.

We have vacations planned with the extended family; and I have GOT to get me in a pool before summer disappears. And then there’s August, where the tomatoes come flooding in and I can’t spend enough time dicing, pureeing, and canning all the lovely red abundance.

But I’m sure you’ve got stuff going on too, so you won’t miss me too much. I’ll still be here once a week or so, anyway.

Hope you’re all well; and let me know what’s keep you busy these days!

What I’m Into: June 2014

Lydia and daddy

beach toddler

holding chick(Holding a baby chick)

18 weeks pregnant(18 weeks pregnant — almost halfway there!)

mulberries(Mulberries from the front yard)
camping in back yard(Camping in the back yard)

Ahhh, summer. Why are there any other seasons? Summer is SO COMPLETELY SUPERIOR to every other season on so many levels and to such an incredible degree that I really don’t know why we put up with any of the rest. (Remember that we had 5 months of snow here this year.)

This month, we watched tadpoles turn to toads. We picked bowls and bowls of strawberries and baked them into muffins and pies. We went to the beach, played at the park, went for bike rides, had a solstice party.



I read [present tense] a lot of blogs, but I never read the authors’ books when they come out. (I’m sure jealousy plays a secret part in it.) So I finally decided to take a few out of the library.


Carry On, Warrior – Glennon Melton. Anyone who has read Momastery for any length of time knows Glennon is brilliant, hilarious, totally neurotic, and astonishingly wise. So I knew this one would be full of treasures. I’ve been reading her blog for a year or two and I love almost everything she writes.

Unfortunately, I was disappointed to find that a lot of the book is material from the blog that I’ve already read, especially at the beginning. But there was some wonderful new stuff around the middle, and a few of the essays I’ve already read were still moving the second/third time around (especially “One, Two, Three.” Soooo beautiful.)

Notes from a Blue Bike – Tsh Oxenreider. I really liked this book. It wasn’t anything groundbreaking, though. I’m already totally on the same page as Tsh on virtually every subject. (Except the subject of travel, though she really got me to rethink and reevaluate some of my feelings about it. In the last few years I’ve come to think of traveling as the domain of the snooty and self-righteous, but she got me to really reexamine my feelings on the subject. I’m starting to think it’s something I’d love to pursue with my family again in a few years.)

The only thing I hated about this book is the fact that I didn’t write it. (In general, Tsh Oxenreider is the one person who consistently makes me die of envy. How can one person be so productive have and achieve everything I want in life? Well, except chickens. But I think I’d trade a book deal for them.)

I also started reading Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs (Ellen Galinsky). It’s fascinating and super-helpful, especially for those interested in non-traditional education. It’s a little heavy on the science, though, and sometimes I find it to be a little too much. But I can’t wait to learn more. And it’s convincing me that the Montessori method is really on the right track, with its emphasis on focus and self-control, making connections, etc.

Children’s Books

I admit, we haven’t been reading all that much lately, except for bedtime and hair-braiding time. We’re too busy playing in the rain or swinging on the swings or helping my mom in the garden. So we’ve mostly been cycling through our old stuff. Lots of Little Critter, etc.

But I picked up a copy of the classic The Runaway Bunny (Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd) from a yard sale and it has quickly become a favourite. The lovely, evocative images (can we say William Blake fan?) and sweet message of unconditional love won us over, despite the fact that the last words in the book are “Have a carrot.” (What?)


Absolutely nothing for any of us. Who has time? There are berries to pick, gardens to weed, pies to bake, sunshine to bask in, pools to swim in, woods to be walked through. We can watch TV in the winter.


We only saw two movies this month, just here at home.

Continuing with our Classic Romance Movies We’ve Somehow Never Seen tradition from last month, we watched Pretty Woman (1990). It was surprisingly enjoyable. I haven’t given it much deep reflection, and I imagine there are some pretty troubling messages wrapped up in there; but I liked it a lot.

We also finally saw The Lego Movie, which was absolutely fantastic. Hilarious, smart, inventive, surprising, visually stunning. Will Ferrell was amazing as President Business, and we’re already huge Chris Pratt fans. LOVED IT.

That was my June! How about yours? What have you been into?

Disclaimer: post contains affiliate links. Thanks for helping support Becoming Peculiar!

As usual, linking up with the lovely Leigh Kramer!

What I’m Into: May 2014

Mother's Day Picnic Lunch

Backyard Snails



backyard chickens

May was a big, wonderful, exciting month for me. Full of life and promise and sunshine. (Such a contrast from last month.)

The Highlights:

  • I made it through the first trimester! My nausea had completely lifted by mid-month. My energy, motivation, and enthusiasm for life have all returned. I feel like my old self (with a touch of heartburn and a dozen extra pounds to carry). Emotionally, I’m doing a lot better, too. I got to hear the baby’s heartbeat at my first midwife appointment, which somehow helped ease my anxieties.
  • I turned 29! I celebrated by buying myself a pack of new Hanes underwear and a $25 denim maternity shirt from Target that was not even on sale. #spendy
  • The weather! Our winter was long and brutal, but we’re finally seeing the sun. The grass and trees are green; birds and snails fill our back yard. We got a big, beautiful, used wooden playground for Lydia to play on in the back yard. She wants to be outside all day, every day. It’s divine.
  • Tadpoles! We took home a bucketful from my parents’ yard and put them in an aquarium. I am SO excited to watch them turn into frogs. I’ve always wanted to do this.
  • CHICKENS!! We converted a part of our shed into a chicken coop. Ben built a run for them outside, and installed nesting boxes, a roost, and a window. We took home four red sex-link hens from my parents’ flock. Now we can gather our very own free-range eggs every morning!

See? A big month!

Moving on to my usual categories!



In preparation for our new residents, we did a lot of reading on keeping chickens (though of course we’ll get lots of guidance from my parents, who have been doing it for decades.) Of the books we got from the library, I liked the following the best:

  • Fresh Eggs Daily – Lisa Steele. She can be a little hokey at times (installing curtains and creating herb satchels for her nesting boxes; including a chapter on “spoiling” chickens with specially-made treats); but I appreciated her natural approach to preventing and treating health problems using herbs.
  • Raising Chickens for Dummies – Kimberly Willis and Rob Ludlow. Super-practical and sensible; easy to read; a must-have for the homesteader’s library, in my opinion.

I also finally read a couple of Amanda Blake Soule’s (the author of Soulemama.com) beautiful and inspiring books. (Sidenote: didn’t that woman just totally luck out in the name department?! A Romantic poet and Soule? Perfect.) The Creative Family and The Rhythm of the Family are both full of wonderful activities, crafts, and inspiration. I loved them both.

¬†Children’s Books

children's books

I’ve been continuing down the line of Caldecott winners to read with Lydia. A few of them were too old for her, but Joseph Had a Little Overcoat (Simms Taback) is fun. Same basic story as Something from Nothing — both are based on a Jewish folk song — but with unique, interesting, interactive illustrations. I enjoy reading it, and she enjoys poring over all the collage details.

We also took the book Stop Snoring, Bernard! (Zachariah Ohora) out of the library, and we all love it. (It’s not an award-winner or anything.) Funny and sweet.


Serenity – We borrowed this movie from a friend after having finished the TV series (Firefly). Goodness, this movie. I think I held my breath through the whole thing. Brilliant, beautiful, heartbreaking, horrifying. Possibly the most tense movie I’ve ever seen. I still haven’t worked through all my emotions from this film.

Sleepless in Seattle – I realized I haven’t seen a LOT of iconic romance movies, so we decided to try a few on Netflix. This one was the first we watched, and it earned a solid meh. It’s kind of silly and you don’t even get to watch the couple interact until the last 40 seconds of the movie. The acting is good, though.

Jerry Maguire – Can you believe I’d never seen this either? It was a total surprise, and overall we really enjoyed it. In fact, the more I think about it in retrospect, the more I like it. Moving, disarming, and superbly acted.


30 Rock, Season 2. Because I’ve been feeling well and the weather’s been lovely, we haven’t been watching much TV. But every now and then we’ll watch another episode of 30 Rock on Netflix. We’ve moved on to season 2 and it just keeps getting funnier.

In the Kitchen

Tempura Dandelions – I shared this recipe on the blog. I loved them, and they were really fun.

I also tried my first batch of homemade donuts after Ben threatened to buy some from a store. (Note: Ben’s “threat” was more of a “having an idea out loud,” but I took that as a personal challenge. Oh no you are NOT buying donuts from a store! Not on my watch!)

I used this recipe, subbing 2 cups of whole wheat flour for some of the white, using coconut oil instead of shortening, and frying in lard. You should have seen the look on Ben’s face when he walked in to these. And honestly, I thought they were pretty incredible, too.


That was my month! How about yours? What have you been into?

Disclosure: contains affiliate links.

What I’m Into: April 2014

Hill of Calvary(Hill of Calvary: inspiration found here and here.)

Easter hunting

As I already mentioned in my last post, it was a long month for me.

There was good stuff: my first-ever nephew was born (six weeks early, which was scary; but he’s doing well now); and Easter was lovely, too. Though I feel like I was in a haze for most of it.

I looked forward to April all winter long; but then morning sickness unexpectedly knocked me out and left me on the couch for far too much of it. Even with afternoon naps, I’m usually completely worn out by 7pm and in bed by 9:30.

My poor neglected little toddler has been taking it like a champ. And I’m hoping to feel much better in the next few weeks, so that hopefully I can really jump into spring in May. I’m already starting to regain some energy, and being in the kitchen doesn’t always make me want to puke.

Here’s what I’ve been into!


Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder (Richard Louv) — Lovely, exciting, inspiring. I want to make camping a yearly experience again, like when I was a kid. And I want to spend much more time playing outside.

Next month.

Childrens’ Books

In the hopes that I would be guaranteed excellent books every time, I decided to start taking out all the Caldecott-medal winning books from the library, a few at a time, starting with the most recent. We’re already fans of well-known winners like Where the Wild Things Are and The Snowy Day, so I figured I couldn’t lose.

I’ve gotten mixed results.

Locomotive (2014) went straight back to the library because it’s waaaaay too advanced for a young child.

(I’d already taken out This is Not My Hat [2013] last year and absolutely loved it.)

A Ball for Daisy (2012) was puzzlingly mediocre.

A Sick Day for Amos McGee (2011), however, was beautiful and charming.

The Lion and the Mouse (2010) was a pretty big hit, too. Gorgeous illustrations.


Because I’ve felt so sick and tired, we’ve watched more than our usual amount of TV.

The Parks and Rec season finale was SO GOOD. This was the best season yet, and the finale was utterly perfect. We were so happy to see the Cones of Dunshire make a reappearance.

We also started watching 30 Rock on Netflix, which is hilarious and fun. Tina Fey is a comedic genius.

We finished Firefly, and absolutely loved it! The latter half is way better than the first. I love everybody so much (but especially Wash and Zoe). I’m even warming up to Inara, and I never care for characters like her. I can’t wait to see the movie now!


There were a few evenings/afternoons where I just couldn’t get off the couch, so I ended up watching a few movies with Lydia.

We saw Rise of the Guardians on Netflix, and despite its cheesy-sounding premise (Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, Sandman and Jack Frost team up to fight an evil adversary), I found it surprisingly tender and moving.

We watched the first half of Turbo but had to turn it off because it was SO BAD it was embarrassing us.

Look. I can do fantasy and science fiction. Kids go to wizarding school and fight a dark wizard with magic and love? Bring it. Lovable monsters fuel their city with the screams of children? Brilliant. Children walk through a wardrobe and enter a magical land with talking animals? Yes yes yes.

But I draw the line at a snail who wants to be a race car (even though he idolizes a race car driver), and becomes one by going through an internal combustion engine but fails to sustain any fundamental changes to his bodily structure. I mean, he doesn’t even have wheels.

The writers weren’t even trying to be convincing.

I’m sorry. NO.

Lastly, Ben and I got our hands on some free movie tickets and saw Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier. I loved it. (See? I have a very high tolerance for pseudo-sciencey nonsense.)

I’m sorry, but I love all the Marvel movies (except Thor. That one was lame. And the first Captain America was a teeny bit ridiculous, too). I love the action, the clever banter, the guaranteed happy endings. And it doesn’t hurt that Chris Evans is quite possibly the most beautiful man I have ever laid eyes on. *Swoon.*

With the Munchkin

Playing guitar

We seem to have hit a Golden Age with Lydia (now two years, eight months); and it’s a good thing, because I have not had the energy to spend much quality time with her. And definitely not enough energy to organize activities for her.

She’s been so great with playing independently, though. And she’s so unbelievably imaginative. I love hearing her create characters from popsicle sticks, toothbrushes, cookie cutters, and stickers.

We did make this awesome sparkly slime one evening in lieu of TV. It was a huge success! Even Ben and I couldn’t get enough of it. Creating it was like magic! And it has so many interesting properties to explore! We all played with it for a good hour that night.

I also tried this super-simple soft play-dough (made with hair conditioner and corn starch). It was nice the first day, but quickly became very crumbly and messy. Lydia just pretended it was (very messy) snow for her dogs, which I guess is okay.

soft play dough snowAnd that’s my month in review!

What have you been into?

As usual, linking up with Leigh Kramer.

*Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.*

A Teeny, Tiny Update

Black-eyed Pea

I just wanted to let you, my dear friends and readers, know that after nineteen months of waiting, hoping and praying, I have a teeny tiny human growing inside of me — about the size of a black-eyed pea, I’m told. (Well, the internet said blueberry, but I didn’t have any of those.)

I understand that it’s customary to wait until the end of the first trimester to announce a pregnancy, but to be honest I don’t really understand that. I think it has to do with the higher risk of miscarriage within the first trimester; but if I did miscarry I would tell you about that either way.

Anyway, I wanted to tell you now because I can already foresee that it’s likely to get quiet around here over the next few weeks (or months). My bean-sized cargo has already all but flattened me. I have lost all enthusiasm for anything but sleep and Vietnamese pho. (We are fortunate enough to live within walking distance from a little Vietnamese restaurant that makes the best pho of my life. And for the last two days it’s been nearly the only thing I can eat.)

For a season, writing has been bumped down the priority list after survival. And when I have the energy, reading to my two-year-old, who doesn’t understand why I’m always laying on the couch these days.

As most of you know, having another child has been our heart’s desire for quite a long time. I’m only seven weeks along, so it’s still really early and I’m trying not to get ahead of myself too much. I’m still saying “If we have a baby in November . . . ” We’re excited but trying to tread gently.

I want to thank you all so much for your support and prayers. I know many of you have been praying for our family — particularly in regards to another addition — and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. We’re both excited and terrified of where this may take us.

Blessings to you and yours.

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