What I’m Into: July 2014

feet at beach

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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!

Books

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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

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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.

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

Movies

No movies here! It’s summer, remember?

Television

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?

Disclaimer: post contains affiliate links. Thanks for your support!

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.

Heaven.

Books

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.

books

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?)

Television

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.

Movies

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

snailHerbs

tadpoles

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!

Books

books

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.

Movies

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.

Television

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.

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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!

Books

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.

Television

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!

Movies

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.

What I’m Into: March 2014

maple syrupfinished maple syrup

This winter SERIOUSLY WON’T END.

I thought this image was apt:

I think we had approximately two nice days this month, and for all the rest we had to bundle up in snow pants, winter coats, mittens and hats to go outside.(Not that we went outside much. I’m too bitter most of the time so we just stay inside and sulk).

The couple of sunny days we had, however, were great for maple syrup (see photos above). (Every year, we tap our big maple tree out front and boil down the sap to get a couple of quarts of syrup. So far, we’ve gotten maybe seven cups of syrup. It’s hard to keep track because we keep using it up as we get it.)

We went to the beach one Sunday morning to collect stones for a project, and there was so much snow that even though the path to the beach was gated off, the three of us easily walked right over it — the snow pile reached to the top of the gate.

story stones(This is what we used the stones for: story stones. Fun, right?!)

Here’s hoping that April will finally bring that long-awaited sunshine, warmth, and greenery.

In the meantime, here’s what I’ve been into.

Books

WomanCode: Perfect Your Cycle, Amplify Your Fertility, Supercharge Your Sex Drive, and Become a Power Source – Alisa Vitti

I have mixed feelings about this one.

On the one hand, I really appreciate a lot of the information in this book, especially the bits and pieces that have helped add to my understanding of my fertility issues. I’m always adding pieces to the puzzle, and this book contributed in some interesting ways.

There’s some great advice, and I’m really excited about her idea of syncing our lives with our cycles — i.e. understanding and embracing the phases of our feminine cycles, and working with them to flourish. It sounds beautiful and productive.

I guess I just wasn’t crazy about the whole “Follow my five-step program and your life will be GLORIOUS!!!!” approach. I’ve been inundated with this kind of talk from self-help books for years and it immediately makes me wary.

But if you can look past that, and don’t mind skimming here and there, I think this books has some valuable stuff to say about improving hormonal health and getting in tune with your body to enhance balance and energy.

Children’s Books

After a few rather mediocre library hauls, I finally made a list of book recommendations from people I trust and ended up with a pretty sweet haul of library books for the munchkin.

children's books: Little Pea and Little Hoot
Little Hoot and Little Pea – Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Jen Corace. These books are adorable in every way. Lydia doesn’t quite get the humor (Little Hoot wants to go to bed but his parents say he has to stay up and play; Little Pea doesn’t want to eat his candy but his parents won’t let him eat his spinach until he’s done); but she still loves them. And I don’t hate re-reading them twelve times a day, so that’s a bonus.

Chilren's books

These books are all better as bedtime stories (as opposed to bathroom/reading nook books), since they’re longer and the illustrations are more detailed, inviting a more lingering gaze.

Make Way for Ducklings – Robert McCloskey — beautiful, classic illustrations; charming story. Lydia loves to shout “Qua-a-ack!” every now and then throughout the day just to catch me off guard.

Blueberries for Sal – Robert McCloskey — I don’t know why I’m so drawn to these classic, black-and-white illustrations. All I can say is this author didn’t win half a dozen Caldecott Medals and Honors for nothing. This cozy story about a toddler and a little bear getting their mothers mixed up on blueberry hill delights my daughter every time.

Stellaluna – Jannell Cannon — absolutely delightful. Stellaluna found her way into my heart upon the very first reading. So I don’t even mind that Lydia has chosen this book as her bedtime story every night for the last week.

Llama Llama Red Pajama- Anna Dewdney — the rhymes in this book are fun to read and easy for little ones to memorize, so everyone can join in. And I chuckle every time we get to the page where Mama Llama leaps from the phone and races to her screaming baby llama — almost losing her pearls on the way — just to find him sitting quietly on his bed. Hilarious.

The Story of Ferdinand -  Munro Leaf and Robert Lawson — Of course this pacifist loves this charming classic tale about the gentle, nonconformist bull who wouldn’t fight in the bullfights. And happily, my daughter loves it too.

Music

We’re going through another Walk Off the Earth phase in our family. I can’t get enough of their upbeat melodies and creative videos. Their music videos on Youtube are all Lydia wants to see.

Our favourite videos include Gang of Rhythm – Car Loop Version (so friggin awesome!!!), Royals, and Material Girl. And we all adore their newest video for Happy (featuring Parachute):

 

Television

Big Bang Theory and Parks and Rec remain staples in our weekly viewing cycle. But I cannot WAIT until it’s warm out and we’re too busy visiting the beach and taking long strolls around the neighbourhood to watch TV.

We’ve also continued to work our way through Freaks and Geeks. I just love Bill so much. I pretty much just watch it for him.

Since we don’t want to watch violent stuff in front of Lydia and since she still only goes to bed when we do, we have to save Firefly for Sunday afternoons during her naps. So it’s very slow-going. So far, it’s not quite the life-changing experience folks have led me to believe it will be, but I’m not giving up yet — we’ve only made it to episode 4 so far. (Does it get significantly better?)

Movies

Shut up. We didn’t see a single movie this month. We still haven’t seen Frozen or Lego Movie, which apparently are the best movies ever. What is wrong with us.

And that was our month in a nutshell. What have you been into? Have you had nicer weather? If so, I DON’T WANT TO HEAR ABOUT IT.

As usual, Linking up with Leigh Kramer!

Disclaimer: Post contains affiliate links.

Homemade Bathtub Paint

Homemade Bathtub Paint Recipe

Friends: I have a majillion post ideas and drafts floating around right now. But illness, temporarily-out-of-service babysitters (read: grandmas) and general busyness have prevented them from getting finished.

I had an hour tonight, so I thought I’d quickly share something awesome I recently discovered: homemade bathtub paint! It’s very easy, cheap, and fun! And you probably already have all the ingredients on hand.

homemade bathtub paint

I found this recipe from The Artful Parent via Pinterest. We gave it a try and loved it (and I took a few mediocre photos to show you. You’re welcome.) It’s not often that Pinterest translates into real life so easily.

Bathtub Paint Recipe:

  • 1/2 Cup of Cornstarch
  • 1/2 Cup of Water
  • 1 Cup of Dish or Hand Soap
  • Dye/food coloring

(I used an unscented, uncoloured dish soap made by Nature Clean. I also used a gel food colouring — you can usually find it at a bulk foods store — which gave it the wonderful bright colour. I also love the stuff for making brilliant homemade play-dough. Regular food colouring would work just fine, though, and apparently tempera paint is an option too.)

Dissolve corn starch into cold water. Gently heat in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture begins to bubble and thicken. Add the dish soap and stir until blended. Remove from heat.

You can then separate your paint into as many different colours as you want and dye each one with the food colouring. Store in an airtight container.

homemade bathtub paint

I decided to try three colours — red, blue, and yellow — and put them into these half-pint wide-mouth mason jars (I love these guys. I use them for everything). I thought the weight of the glass would be helpful for keeping the paints  in place on the edge of the bathtub. I just needed a tiny bit of the gel food colouring to give it that intense hue — maybe 1/8 of a teaspoon of each colour, which was PLENTY.

When it came to bath time, to further secure the paints in place, I cut a rectangle of shelf liner to lay down on the bathtub edge before setting down the jars. They never budged. (Side note: that shelf liner stuff is handy for all kinds of things. You can get a roll from the dollar store — it’s so cheap. I originally bought it for this project.)

bathtub paint

She had to paint everything in sight.

When your munchkin is done, the paint just rinses off. If you let it stay on a while and it dries, you might need to scrub a little, but it will wash right off.

Have you made anything like this? Any other favourite bath-time activities?

What I’m Into: January 2014 (The Sherlock and Toilet Paper Edition)

SHERLOCK SHERLOCK SHERLOCK SHERLOCK.

Yeah I was into other stuff too but SHERLOCK.

That is what I was INTO. January was essentially Sherlock Month in this house.

Sherlock is the BEST THING I’ve EVER WATCHED, you guys.

(Now, that might not be saying much, since I have watched exactly eight TV shows in the last eight years [three of which I abandoned after the second season because they were either too depressing or too sex-obsessed]; but the level of passion I feel for this show exceeds the rest by so much that I’m confident it would be the best if I’d watched 80 TV shows.)

It might also help to know that I have adored the Sherlock Holmes character since I first watched The Great Mouse Detective in 1991 at the age of six. I was so enamored with the eccentric genius that I became a mouse in my imaginary world (named Olivia, naturally) and married him at least a dozen times over the next three years.

So it’s no great surprise that I’m completely taken with this newest incarnation of Doyle’s famous sociopathic sleuth. It helps that the writing is superb, the characters are brilliant and the acting is unexcelled. Altogether, the show is magnificent. Just magnificent.

The final episode of season 2 blew me away last year. Martin Freeman’s performance — first in the therapist’s office and then at the grave — just knocked my socks off. Unforgettable. And that cliffhanger ending! How unbelievably brilliant and cruel! The wait was torture! This was me, for an entire year:

So you can bet I pretty much lost my mind when I discovered I could watch the new episode a few weeks early online. And it did NOT disappoint. It was everything I dreamed it would be and more. Freeman and Cumberbatch (aka John and Sherlock) have earned a permanent place together in my heart.

Ben and I re-watched the first two seasons, and then went on to see the rest of season 3. Episode 2 — The Sign of Three — was one of the most enjoyable things I’ve seen in my life.

Our Sherlock-viewing got so out of hand that Lydia started making deductions (Sniffing her half-eaten apple: “Must be an apple, John!”) and re-named her doll and kangaroo Sherlock and John. Confirming that Sherlock is, in fact, a girl’s name. (Folks who have seen His Last Vow will get the reference.)

renamed toysLydia, with Sherlock and John.

I think what I love MOST about this show is the running theme of the value of friendship. This is such an unexplored topic in Western media. It is so rare to see such an in-depth exploration of male friendship. You never hear the word love applied to any non-romantic relationship (outside of family), but especially between two men. This show dares to go there. And when it involved a character who generally fails to care about anyone? ALL THE FEELS.

ANYWAY. I could talk about Sherlock all day (I PRETTY MUCH DO ALREADY) but I’ll move on.

Books

I picked up The 4-Hour Chef by Tim Ferriss mostly because I spend so freaking much time in the kitchen, and I was hoping this book might offer some tips on how to cut down on cooking time without sacrificing quality and variety.

It didn’t offer that, but it’s a fascinating read nonetheless. Ferriss is an odd and interesting human being. And I learned a few nifty tips along the way.

I also read the wonderful Little House in the Suburbs: Backyard farming and home skills for self-sufficient living (Deanna Caswell and Daisy Siskins), which is inspiring, very comprehensive, and surprisingly funny. Thanks to this book, Ben and I have decided that we are most definitely getting backyard chickens this spring. I’m also very interesting in possibly getting a couple of goats someday — the authors make it sound very doable and totally awesome. I also want to get back into soap-making and try some of their delightful recipes.

Children’s Books

We found this Can You See What I See? book at the thrift store, and we bought it mostly for Ben (he loves that kind of thing), but it’s turned out to be awesome for Lydia, too. (It’s a picture puzzle book, kind of like Where’s Waldo, but with photographs). She just loves to pore over the detailed photos. It’s made for older kids, so she might not be able to find everything in the list on the sidebar; but it’s proven to be a fun book to explore together. We take turns saying, “Can you find the ___?” It’s excellent for building vocabulary, and practicing paying attention to detail. We love it.

Music

Ben got the Bastille album Bad Blood for Christmas, and I can’t believe how much I love it. I listened to it almost every day for the first couple of weeks.

(I don’t know how to talk about music, so I’ll leave it at that.)

In Other News . . .

interview

I’m famous  for not using toilet paper.

If you missed it on my Facebook page, I was interviewed not once, but TWICE this week . . . on the subject of reusable toilet paper.

Out of the blue, I got a tweet from someone from HuffPost Live, wondering if I’d be interested in talking about my experience without toilet paper. Since I’m insane, I agreed.

If you’re interested, you can watch the HuffPost Live interview here.

I wasn’t aware of it, but the next day Salon.com did a feature on that interview. My blog traffic went through the roof and I had no idea why.

Two days later, someone from AM640 called me and asked if I’d like to do a live radio interview for the Jeff McArthur show as well. And I said, Sure, why not? I’ve already crossed so many lines, talking publicly about my private bathroom behaviour.

That radio interview can be found here.

I can honestly say I never expected to become a spokesperson for cloth toilet paper. It’s quite bizarre. Please tell me this isn’t going to be my claim to fame.

So that was my month in a nutshell! Tell me: what have you been into?

Linking up with Leigh Kramer! Go find more music, books, movies and TV shows to enjoy!

*Disclaimer: post contains affiliate links.

Ten Random and Weird Facts About Yours Truly

silly

(This gem of a photo was taken by accident when I asked my husband to take some outfit pictures. Even though it’s totally overexposed and decidedly ridiculous, It ended up kinda being my favourite.)

A zillion years ago, I was tagged in one of those things where you’re supposed to share 10 random facts about yourself on your blog. I was in the midst of a really busy season at the time and didn’t get the chance to write the post. But after that, I kept a running list of things I *would* include in such a list, if ever the opportunity arose again.

Well, I finally just decided to turn that list into a post, just for fun, and forget about the right opportunity.

Here are ten random, weird, pointless, silly facts about Yours Truly.

  • I don’t like coffee. Or tea. Or any other hot beverage, for that matter. I just don’t get it. I don’t need a drug addiction, thanks. And for me, the whole point of drinking a beverage is to cool off your mouth. Why would you put a hot liquid in your mouth? Especially in the morning, when your mouth is the warmest and yuckiest? Like I said: I just don’t get it.
  • I’m left-handed.
  • I’ve never had my ears (or any other part of my body) pierced. For the first twenty years of my life, it was because I wasn’t allowed. (Conservative Mennonites are opposed to all jewelry, but especially that which requires altering the body). And after that — i.e., after I got married and moved out of the house — I just never found a compelling enough reason to do it. Then I would have to buy earrings. Who has time and money for that?
  • In fact, I still don’t really wear jewelry at all. I never got in the habit. I have a couple of 7-year-old $10 necklaces that I bust out for events like weddings. When my ($500) wedding ring broke, I started wearing a plain band of steel that my father-in-law made out of a piece of pipe, which just happened to fit my ring finger perfectly. I have been wearing it for five years now. It’s so much more comfortable!
  • I routinely get mistaken for a man on the phone. I’m totally used to picking up the phone, saying, “Hello?” and hearing, “Hi — Ben?” When I worked in publishing, I got, “Hi — Dan?” Even my own father mistook me for my husband once. And once, after talking to one of Ben’s clients on the phone, the client’s son called and said, “Can I talk to the guy my dad was just talking to?”
  • I have all my wisdom teeth. At first, I kept them because I didn’t have dental coverage and couldn’t afford to get them pulled. And then I discovered that they were just fine just the way they were. And, well, we still don’t have coverage. Besides: why fix something that ain’t broke? When I developed cavities in a few of them, I just got them filled.
  • My most embarrassing moment: I once announced to an entire 500+ congregation that a woman was dead. She wasn’t. (Background story: I used to act as “host” at our church’s Sunday morning services, welcoming people and doing announcements, offering an opening prayer, etc. One Sunday before the service, a bunch of people came to me at once and gave me a bunch of last-minute details on a few new announcements. In all the commotion, someone told me something about an elderly woman in the congregation, and I got the details a little wrong.  After my announcement, the pastor had to come up and assure the congregation, “Mrs. Reimer did not DIE. She broke her HIP.” Needless to say, I resigned from my post shortly thereafter.)
  • I didn’t see a movie in theater until I was 13. Again, I wasn’t allowed before then. My first movie was How the Grinch Stole Christmas (The Jim Carrey version). The theater was packed, and we had to sit right up in the front row with our necks craned up. I was underwhelmed by the experience.
  • I write in a journal (by hand) every single night. I have been doing this since 1996 (at age 11), though I started writing periodically in 1992 (at age 7). I have 24 full journals. My very first entry reads, “J and D [my cousins] came over and we collered. And then we played tachtag and got swety.” (March 8, 1992). I use the word “swety” no fewer than four times in the first four entries.
  • I started working to help support the family when I was 11. My family picked green beans for some extra income that summer. I continued to do manual labour jobs every summer from then on. (When we talk about working “on the field” in our family, we mean working on a literal field. With plants growing on it.) 75% of our earnings went to the family; the other 25%, we kids could keep to spend on clothes, eating out with our friends, etc. In addition to beans, we picked tomatoes, peppers, and apples, and we detasseled corn. When I was 13 I packed tomatoes and cucumbers, and throughout high school and university I picked mushrooms at a mushroom farm on weekends and during the summer. I got my first non-manual-labour job when I was 20, when I worked as a research assistant for a professor. To say that I have had enough of working with produce would be an understatement.

Aren’t you glad you know these things about me? If you have a blog, I would be tickled if you made a similar list and shared it. If not: feel free to tell me one weird thing about yourself that I probably don’t know.

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