Wednesday, November 26, 2014

More Crafty Goodness

packaged up with gifts 

Last week I mentioned I had gift-bags to sell for Christmas, and I've been busy sewing the past seven days. I love spending time doing crafts and making practical, useful, and beautiful gifts. I get a blissful buzz from it.

In the top photo you can see what a few of the Christmas bag patterns are and what they might look like full of presents for friends and family. Although our Christmas tree will probably be locally sourced (ahem, from our property's uncleared forest), we don't have it cut down yet and displayed in our home. From past years, though, take my word for it--these fabric gift bags look beautiful under the tree and add a warmth and a coziness to the decorative atmosphere. 

two sets complete with enough twine to tie up each bag, and a necessary pom-pom

The two packages above are a pair of 6 bags each, with enough candy-cane striped twine for closing and a fun pompom to add a bit of spirit and bounce. Each package comes with one large bag, two medium, 2 small, and a mini, too. Each set of six is $25, which is comparable to paper bags, if not cheaper. And get this -- you'll get to keep these forever, instead of buying new bags every year. If you're outside of my area, shipping is just $5 flat. 

Email me at SSLAMAST (at) GMAIL (dot) COM for paypal address and quantity! I look forward to sharing my family tradition with yours. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Thoughts on The Artist's Way

Over the last year I've been working independently on a creative writing course. It's something I put together on my own, to gain momentum and to improve my writing. I'd been looking forward to finally getting to Julia Cameron's well known artist recovery book, The Artist's Way. I received my free copy from paperbackswap and diligently read a chapter per week, enjoying the quotes perched along the margins of nearly every page, and trying to be studious with writing about at least one, sometimes five or six, of the Tasks at the end of each chapter. 

This book, and the amount of 'homework', if you take it seriously, is a course in itself, though, and I hate to say it, but I just couldn't keep up with it. Each week Cameron advises to go on an Artist Date, and nearly week after week I was not able to do that. I know it is a big part of going through the book. The reasons behind the artist date are to not only see what you may not otherwise see (and go where you may not otherwise go), but to get inspired, fill up your well with something life-giving, and also to make the time and money you spend toward art and artistic endeavors completely part of your lifestyle, and budget--to normalize creativity in your life.

 This was hard for me. If going out on one date a month with my husband, over a weekly artist date was what were measuring on the scales, the most important thing for me to do was to invest in my marriage, even though I tried to take it seriously. If there was a free exhibit (or just something like a beautiful park or area I hadn't been to before) then, I'd try to fit it in. With one car, four family members, low funds, and lack of babysitters it just got pushed onto the big slush pile of back burner priorities. I'm not making excuses, necessarily, because I did what I could, but at the end of the day, perhaps the timing was off for me even though I'd waited two years to go through this course. 

An international move happened as I was about 2/3 of the way done with the book, which didn't help my writing, or my willingness to try, either. I took two months off, which is about 1 month and 2 weeks longer than I should have. My discipline got lazy. I chose to sleep in instead of getting up and intentionally doing the Morning Pages and the reading. Although looking back on a project you want to succeed at, and seeing where the discipline fell by the wayside is somewhat disappointing, I know I can always go through this book again. That's where I'm leaving my experience with The Artist's Way. I don't keep many books (nor buy them, 95% of what I read is from the library), but I decided to keep this one for future use. I'll get to those Artist Dates yet. I love Julia's writing, and she's a very encouraging teacher. I've only read two of her books but I'd read more. I've kept both of them (shocker)! 

Moral of the story? One foot in front of the other. Timing might be off, but forward motion is still positive in the grand scheme of things. 

Have any of you ever gone through The Artist's Way? What was your experience?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Christmas Bag Sets for Sale!

A stuffed Christmas bag waiting to be opened! 

This year I'm really excited to start selling a few things I've been making and perfecting over the years for my own family and friends. The first of these items are sets of Christmas bags. What's a Christmas bag, you say?

A Christmas bag is a fabric bag that will last forever, long after paper bags, wrapping paper, and tissue paper. There is no clean-up after the gifts have been given, just gather them up, fold them and put them away for next year...and every year after that.

They keep vintage fabrics out of the landfill and are a great option both financially and environmentally. They come with a nice folded inside seam, and are double stitched up each side for strength. They're a part of the holiday traditions.
Two patterns of bags; S, M, L size, all folded up (bonus minis, too!)

I had never heard nor seen Christmas bags before marrying into the Mast family. Stefan's Oma always made them for her family, and Stefan's mom carried on the tradition for her own family. When I spent my first Christmas among them, I asked about them. They're so different, and I love that we've kept up the tradition as well.

Through the years I've accumulated vintage holiday, Christmas, and wintry fabrics, and I'm excited to spread the idea around! I love items that are aesthetically pleasing and these bags, with a little ribbon tie, look gorgeous around a tree. There is no waste with these bags like used-up bows, broken bags, paper wrapping, or the tag being ripped off. Oh yeah, and they last forever. 

 The remaining four fabrics used. The first two are vintage material. 

I'm making a number of sets for sale, and each set will be $25. Included in that are 5 bags of various sizes (2 small, 2 medium, 1 large) and a bonus mini in all the fabric patterns you see in the last two photos.

Each set will be wrapped up with enough ribbon or twine for all the bags* and wrapped up with a pompom or two. I am only making 10 sets, so hurry if you want some for your family. 

Please email me at SSLAMAST (AT) GMAIL (DOT) COM for paypal address. If you're not local, shipping will be $5 flat. Thank you! 

*(tags not included)

Monday, November 17, 2014

Frugal Christmas: Teddy & Dolly Sleeping Bags

This year we aren't headed back to Nebraska for Christmas. It's a sad thing, something that will hit us come late December, that this is the first year we won't be spending with our families during the holidays. I've tried not to think about it. Instead, focus on others, right? I found the original teddy sleeping bag idea on pinterest over a year ago and plugged it into the back of my mind for Christmas gifts for littles back in Nebraska.

Although I didn't stick to the exact design, nor buy the pattern, it did give me the inspiration I needed to create my own for my nieces and nephew. Instead of putting cotton batting in between the layers to give it that puffy feel, I used some extra bits of fleece I had on hand.

Although I changed the design from the largest to the next two, I really like how each turned out. The two girls' sleepers have a permanently folded bit in front, embellished by a vintage button. I thought the fold-over helped it look more like a sleeping bag instead of something unrelated, like an ipad case. The largest bag doesn't have a fold-over, but instead a smaller front. I thought about making miniature pillows as well, but figured that 3 pieces with 3 children are better than 6. I want them to enjoy the toys, but I don't want to clutter my sister-in-law's house up, either!

This project took me approximately one quiet time, or about 2.5 hours, including cutting, ironing and sewing. I essentially made inside out mats, and folded them over and stitched up the sides to seal them, leaving one smaller side completely open. Then, with the girls' sacks, I folded over a side and embroidered a thick thread to keep the fold in place and topped it with a button. Easy peasy, and something handmade with love for my nieces and nephew back home during Christmas.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Around Here // A Family Diary Update

Just a simple way to update family and friends of kid pictures, and what's going on in day-to-day life. Inspired by Kara's weekly journal day book entries.  

 Ani & Lu with their chosen pumpkins at God's Little Acre Farm field trip

Outside my window: It's 4:51 and it's nearly dark. The blackness will set in within the next twenty minutes. The last night hovering just above our property tree line.

I am thinking: The kids have 8 minutes left of quiet time, and I need to get dinner started.

I am thankful: for the quiet of afternoon rest times and cold nights at home

Ani and Lukka riding a scooter in "The Philippines" (or the Seattle Children's Museum)

I am wearing: About 5 items I've had for almost 10 years. I need new clothes. 

I am creating: this blog post and Christmas bags (for sale next week!)

I am going: to make butter chicken for dinner. Thank you Costco sauce.

Ani working on lace-up cards on the front porch in late summer

I am wondering: how this whole mess with our old property management company will go. I'm trying not to think about it.

I am reading: Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey, and Leadership Education by Olivier DeMille

I am learning: how to call myself an artist and a writer (double cringe), and working again, toward artistic goals without shame, hostility, and procrastination

Hardhat Lu working at the Seattle Children's Museum

Around the house: some laundry waiting to be put away, a space heater, finished (but yet to be photographed) sewn Christmas gifts, a freezing cold bonus room (you can see your breath!)

In the kitchen: are the ingredients, sitting out, for imitation and gluten free Starbuck's Cranberry Bliss Bars for a little get together tomorrow. I need to get to that tonight. 

I am pondering: how the first Portfolio Presentation will go, on Sunday, with our homeschooling teacher

Lukka exploring the beekeeper equipment at The Honeybee Centre

One of my favorite things: is watching an episode (or two!) of Gilmore Girls on netflix nearly every afternoon. I completely take rest time very seriously.

A few plans for the week: 
* outside play time (1-2 hours a day) whenever the sun is shining
*a walk with a friend to Starbucks for an end-of-week treat
*girl time with a good friend and loosing my Anne of Green Gables the movie virginity
*getting our new car insured 
*finishing up sewn Christmas bag sets
*gathering everything for the kids' homeschooling portfolios 
*reading a few hours

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Here Vs There

View of Vancouver from Stanley Park's Third Beach, and trail

A little compare and contrast, if you will.

Canadian Pros:
*suspension bridges
*chocolates (ohh doesn't compare, American friends!)
*dogs everywhere
*maternity leave
*accessible French children's books (this *might* be a niche..)
*thrift stores

American pros:
*no library probationary periods (also, perhaps a niche..)
*cheap cheese 
*cheap gas
*receiving packages
*alcohol sold in grocery stores
*flea market towns

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Sunday Words

I love words. I love reading. I love inspiration and creativity. Every Sunday I'll share some quotes to inspire you, a quiet end-of-week prayer or thought, if you will.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Weekend Links

Seattle Rainbow

I love the internet. Here's where I was clicking around this week:
  • My favorite Little Folksinger has a new album out and it's more mellow than any of her others, because, "she's just happy all the time." (Spotify link) I read any and every interview she does, and to find her on Design*Sponge was surprising and perfect--my two worlds connecting. Here's the interview. 
  • I'm kind of a conference nerd. I think it goes back to my love of learning. It's on the bucket list to go to the World Domination Summit someday. And hey! Portland! The videos found here are sort of like TED talks without the short time boundary.
  • I can't wait for Anne's new book. Can. Not. Wait. 
  • On Veteran's Day, go outside and celebrate your freedom by enjoying a National Park--free admission for that day only!
  • I'm thinking of getting the Tinker Crate for Lukka for xmas...any gift ideas for a kid who doesn't really like toys, but loves to invent? Leave them for me in the comments. 
  • This pottery piece is absolutely perfect and embodies everything I'd want in decorating a home. Can someone with a design eye translate that for me?
  • We found a store named Lucca when we were in Seattle and OF COURSE we stopped there. This was the strangest and most interesting brick and mortar I've ever been into. It was like walking into a 1930s film noir set in Paris or London. Perhaps during Halloween. 
  • Don't miss this A-Mazing novel, Because of Winn-Dixie, I reviewed on WRSH this past week. Have kids? Read it aloud to them. Don't have kids. Read it quietly to yourself and sniffle. It's fantastic. 

Friday, November 7, 2014

A Little Bit More About My Writing Program

I just can't put a filter on this beauty (Stanley Park, Vancouver)

I wrote a little bit about my own creative writing program the other day, and today I want to flush it out a little bit more; tell you what the discipline looks like on an average day.
I'm generally at my best in the morning, and I like to have at least an hour and a half or two hours to myself before the kids are awake and my free time is gone. If you're a night owl, this type of practice would look very different for you, since you'd want to stay up at all hours after everyone's in bed. I don't get you, but I get you, get me?

Stefan wakes up about 6AM (I might be an early bird, but before 6AM is just obscene) and I generally open my eyes around 6:15-6:20. I begin my day by reading a bit of the bible, doing part of a bible study if I'm involved in one of those at the time, and then I finish up a chapter or an article if I fell asleep in the middle of one the night before. I then take whatever writing book I'm going through at the time, and read a chapter. If the chapter is longer than just a few pages, as is such the book I'm going through right now, The Artist's Way, then I read the chapter at some point in the week. Reading through a short chapter per weekday, is my preference though, since it gives a bit of an encouraging boost before I get to doing the work.

After my little bit of reading, I start my morning pages. Julia Cameron, the writer of The Artist's Way, and creator of the morning pages, tells us to just write, freehand, for 3 pages and don't stop until you're done. She goes on so much about morning pages in her books because it is a tool that has worked for so many people, and she doesn't just recover writing for writers, she recovers creativity for people. Writing these pages helps us deal with writer's (or idea) block, gets us started where we're at, and keeps us going with practice.

I generally do one of two things with my morning pages, either I write randomly; the three pages not quite fluid, more of a brain dump, or I'll spend the entire three pages doing a section of a book I'm working on. Either way, I've spent a bit of time moving forward, whether it looks successful or valuable to anyone else, I'm moving in the right direction with the practice of doing.

After that hour of reading, writing, and study is over (maybe more, maybe less), then I grab the laptop and head into our bonus room, which doubles as my workout room nearly every morning. I get a good 40 minutes of exercise in along with my trusty spotify stations, and that helps clear my head, pick up my mood, and gets me in the mindset to conquer the day with vigor as opposed to sleepiness and irritability. Sure, it's not writing, but it's self-care, and it's clear-headedness and next to getting a solid night's sleep, it's just as necessary for health. That's how I like to start my morning.

Are you an early-bird or a night owl and what do you spend hours researching, doing, or thinking about? It might be time to start paying attention to that...

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Self-Directed Creative Pursuits /// or, How I'm Creating My Own Master's Degree

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life? ~ Mary Oliver

 Feather print by Jessica Rose *

I'm not a back-to-school girl. I knew when I graduated, almost full term with our first baby, that I wasn't going to graduate school. I had plowed through high school with a part-time job, graduated with honors, and then went straight to the university with vigor. After four years of making sure I had enough credits to graduate in exactly that time-frame, getting married, and doing the whole pregnancy thing minus a few weeks, I knew I wasn't going back to school anytime soon. I was at an entirely different crossroads than my peers and I was completely burnt out of school. I loved learning, but was done with academics on others' terms.

Around this time, I started doing a lot of things on my own as a newlywed and new mom. I had to become resourceful and useful in the kitchen, because otherwise it was pasta and red sauce for the rest of our lives. I received a sewing machine as a Christmas gift and became self-taught at sewing, making things for friends and family, gifts and practical needs being met with my curiosity and drive to finish projects. I am equipped to do both of those things now, and the practice of both of those life skills are now nearly second nature.

 That's sort of how it is with creative endeavors. They seem so huge, so insurmountable, but with steady practice and trying steps above your skill level, the mastery follows. 
Fast forward to last year. I'm being inspired by words like this, and I realize I can still take part in my own self-directed learning of sorts, even though I'm a young mom and my past working, traveling, and academic life has all but withered away due to my season of life. 

Hard to fully see, but one of the most beautiful art pieces; wish I had the artist's name *

For two years I had "go through The Artist's Way" on my yearly goal list. Two years I missed it, and I was getting annoyed with myself at my lack of courage to pursue children's picture book writing, which I knew (know!) is still buried in me through all the layers. Julia's writing pages came up in odd ways, I'd read about someone doing them in a blog post, I'd hear something about her and connect the dots, someone else I knew just went on an 'artist date' and enjoyed it. I felt this intensity to listen to all these coincidences and begin writing again; just the daily practice of three free-hand pages every morning. Some might be overwhelmed at the thought of a daily discipline, but I'm an INTJ and I thrive on self-directed discipline, so the morning pages is not where I struggle (hint: getting over paralyzing perfectionism is).

After a few months of upping my writing game with actually writing (amazing, I know), I decided to start a self-directed Creative Writing course for myself, including authors who have written great books about writing and creativity, writing challenges, and a little bit more intentionality with my blogging. I could tell my writing was increasing in quality, ever so slightly. Within a year I had read some really great writing books, and practiced alongside what felt like funky, irreverent writing professors opening up their bag of tricks. I enjoyed this style of learning so much, I started researching and selecting more books for future 'class time'. The books I've read so far are Bird by Bird, The Right to Write, and The Artist's Way. 

 I haven't submitted anything to children's publications, but I have a finished picture book, about 30% of a young adult novel, and about 50% of another (more promising) one, just by the daily discipline that takes me about 30 minutes or so. I have more books in the queue, like On Writing Well, Elements of Style, and the Poetry Home Repair Manual. In a sense, I've come up with a class course that I'm happy with and that I want to continue pursuing, even a year later. Once I shifted my thoughts on this (as opposed to a higher degree certification), I noticed so many others in my circles who are pushing for more in their lives, reading, practicing, trial and error, and just getting their hands dirty with doing. It's exciting to realize I'm in good company, but also to see others' goals pursued.

You have the power to mold your time and pursue hobbies, activities, or skills to turn into your life's work. What do you want to pursue but feel you lack the time or talent? What is your secret, inner dream and why has it stagnated? What is one step you can take today to pursue what you feel is your life's work? 

*Both photos taken at a boutique in Seattle called Moorea Seal. Follow her creative styling, jewelry-making, and book-writing self on Instagram @mooreaseal

Monday, November 3, 2014

Space Needle Treat!

 Space needle on a clear day in late October

One of my best friends came up two weeks ago to spend time with me for 6 days. We did a couple fun things; I took her to Crescent Beach, we went to Stanley Park later in the week, but the majority of the time we just spent catching up on the past year and a half and had a non-stop verbal stream for about 72 hours minus the time we were sleeping and taking bathroom breaks.
Towards the end of the week another friend flew up for the weekend, and we took off to spend three days together in Seattle. Aside from my Malibu trip over a year ago, this was the first time I'd been gone from the kids for any long period of time. I needed this trip so badly. With grandparents still living back in Nebraska, it's been over 2 years since Stefan and I have been able to go somewhere together by ourselves since moving, and we are going to be getting creative next year with this because we realize what a detriment missing out on that actually is for us. Going away with close friends for a few days without any responsibilities aside from keeping ourselves safe and on our return flights and train routes on Monday was completely soul-refreshing.
View over Seattle from Space Needle Viewing Deck 

While in Seattle for three nights, we walked just about everywhere, got poured on, watched fish be flung, ate some delicious drive-in food, shopped in unique  boutiques, cussed like sailors, and saw Tom Hank's boathouse (hint: it's private property now, you can't walk up to it). But the crowning glory of our trip, was a surprise trip up the Seattle Space Needle and dinner in the rotating SkyCity restaurant, secretively planned and financed by my friend's mom (Hi, Jeanne!). We were told to dress up, and park downtown at a certain time and the rest was taken care of. The evening was so fun, and such a precious memory of mine during a really tough year. 
This is not something I would have done for myself, or that our family would have been able to enjoy. To have it a surprise and taken care of just felt unreal while we were spinning on the top of Seattle. When you get into the tiny outside elevator it raises to the observation deck (520 feet) in less than a minute. The time slot we picked was absolutely perfect. We had a clear sky and saw the city in it's natural light, dimming at sunset, and then all light up black with night while in the restaurant. I highly recommend that 5:00 observation deck time and 5:45PM dinner time. You can get 2-hour dinner reservations (everyone is at their table for only 2 hours to accommodate everyone who goes) until 11PM!
Obligatory Space Needle Selfie 

When we went to dinner, my friends treated themselves to some delicious Pacific Northwest seafood, and I of course, ordered a massive brick of cheese. So, I didn't know exactly what I was getting, but oh my word, one of the best appetizers I've ever eaten in my life! See if you can find what I'm talking about on their dinner menu. Obviously, you can't eat there without getting their world-famous dessert, the one that's been on the menu since the inception of the Needle, the Lunar Orbiter
It was such a great end to our three-day trip together. If you're in Seattle and want a truly special evening, go up the needle AND eat at the restaurant, both are necessary. It's expensive to eat at the restaurant, but I can't imagine going up and missing out. Now that I know what both are like, Let me say -- you are definitely missing out if you don't do both to get the true experience! 
Thanks so much to Jeanne and Emily for this wonderful evening getting a view from the top!

Friday, October 31, 2014

What I Read in October

View from the Amtrak train ride from Seattle to Bellingham

I didn't think I'd finish much in October, but I actually surprised myself. My best friend from Nebraska came all the way out to see me and stay for a week, and then we had guests after that, much less just settling in for the past 5 weeks; it was a busy and full month. Here are the books I read and enjoyed in Ocotober.

Hope Runs by Claire Diaz-Ortiz was a side-by-side memoir between an American tourist and a Kenyan orphan. Throw in the mix a non-profit helping kids get started running their first marathons, and you've got a really good, under 200-page book. I enjoyed Claire's book and won a beautiful hard-back version on a blog contest earlier in the year. I know just the woman I'd like to pass this onto, as well, whom I think will also enjoy it. This story follows an American tourist around the world, landing, very surprisingly, in a Kenyan orphanage for a night. From this one night comes many months, and years, of supporting the children and staff of Imani, and presenting one amazing young male student with a great opportunity--studying the rest of his high school years in America and also becoming a foster-son of sorts with said American girls. It's a bittersweet memoir in many ways, but also a story that encourages you to do what you can, with what you have, where you're at.

The first memoir I finished this month was actually by the long-time president of MOPS (Mothers Of PreSchoolers), Elisa Morgan. Her book is called The Beauty of Broken and it was a tear-jerker. This was Morgan's memoir about so many things: her relationship growing up with her parents (divorce, addiction, perfectionism), the relationship between her and her husband (infertility, etc.), and then her children, who've fought demons of their own, starting with each of them facing the biggest wound of a life-time, being given up for adoption. I had also won this paperback in a blog giveaway, and already sent it to it's next home, where I thought it might be enjoyed. I'd definitely recommend this book to someone who doesn't need cheering up, necessarily, but needs to know they're not alone.

The Reading Promise by Alice Ozma is (SURPRISE!) another memoir. This is getting a little funny. I had never heard of this book or the author until hearing an interview with Alice on one of my favorite podcasts, The Read Aloud Revival hosted by Sara Mackenzie. This book is the story of a single dad reading aloud daily to his little girl from the age of 11 until her first day of college. It's the story of growing up, good books, a librarian father, and an audacious promise. I really enjoyed this book, though I found it a bit slow at the beginning. It's also got a pretty great bibliography in the back, and I won't lie--I see myself as Mr. Ozma, nightly reading aloud to my kids from the treasury of good books to enrich their lives. I truly connected with this idea.

Lastly, I finished YA fantasy-novel Re'and by budding author Victoria Wilson. You can find a full review here, but I read this book quickly. It comes with great description, tons of characters, and a fast pace, so I enjoyed it, even though I don't read fiction much.

Current Read:  The Giver by Lois Lowry // When I saw that Lowry's acclaimed book was going to be turned into a movie, I knew I needed to start in on the cover-less copy that I owned. I'm really enjoying this anti-utopian, futuristic novel about a boy named Jonas and his perfect commune.I just got to the part where Jonas becomes the new Receiver, so I'm excited to just sit with this book for another hour and finish it up, before I see the movie, of course.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Re'and the Book /// Book Launch Review

 I read Re'and, by Victoria Easter Wilson in one sitting. I was given an advance reader's copy of Re'and earlier in the Fall by the author, whom I follow on bloglovin.I was happy to review this debut novel and found it to be very fast-paced.

 I don't read fantasy novels very often. Heck, I don't even read fiction very often, especially that of the young-adult kind. I read it in a few hours, because of the constant action, and flowing descriptive visuals, both of the scenes and characters. Wilson definitely has that down pat.

This is a coming-of-age story about a princess named Aideen who has an unforeseen fate of growing into her ruler duties and helping to unify the kingdoms without succumbing to the fear of a threatening nearby nation. Throughout the book there are legendary creatures, many whom will support Aideen on her quest. Although the timeline was hard to follow, the ending clarifies the months passed. The description keeps the book moving at a steady pace, and the near-constant action doesn't hurt, either.

Re'and is Wilson's first novel, and I know there will be others. She's been writing every day in October about self-publishing, capping the informative mountain of tips and how-tos with her book launch party (find it by #Reandthebook) on October 30th. This debut novel can be found on Amazon, with a paperback version and a kindle version available.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Friday Links

I'm not really a selfie person, but when you chop 7-10 inches off, you need to document it!

I'm super excited for the rest of the month. It'll be filled with friends reconnecting, traveling with said friends, eating food with said friends, etc. And then we get to repeat it with more visitors! I chopped my hair off, which somehow buoys my mood, and things are slowly starting to fall into place.

By the end of the month, I'll have a specific book review, a giveaway, maybe a home school post or two, and then a What I Read in October (spoiler: not much!). Here are some links I wanted to share because I thought they were creative/interesting/worthwhile. Did you read or see something online that you wanted to share a million times on social media? Leave it in the comments for all of us to check out!
  • I really want a shirt like this, in a lot of different fabric patterns. Gorgeous drape. 
  • We've been checking out different churches and we recently walked into this sermon series and were blown seeing what different communities do.
  • I've loved following along with this crafty business story series. 
  • ever heard of Spun Honey? I hadn't either but it looks delicious. They had me at honey/carmel/butter. 
  • My good friend Maria just finished one of these killer Katniss sweaters! And it looks amazing!
  • I recently went to an Epicure tasting party and was curious enough to try this. It was totally worth it. 
  • I'm super excited to check out this new cookbook. Not excited to wait until February!
  • I don't want to brag but my kids get to participate in this unique class (Circus Lab). I sure love this homeschooling gig here in BC! 
  • I looooved this list of great netflix/amazon prime educational, and quality tv shows for kids--what an excellent resource!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Nature Documentaries for Kids


Remember when we got to watch a science video in class and it was the best day ever?! Well, nature documentaries for kids have come along way since I was in junior high.

Nature documentaries are a fun pastime for our family, and as homeschoolers, we can use these as part of our curriculum and get science credit. Disney, BBC, Pbs, and National Geographic have definitely stepped up their cinematography and story-telling ability from the 1990s and have some really great movies that families can enjoy together, that kids are enthralled with on their own, and that adults wouldn't be embarrassed watching by themselves, either.

Here are a few of our favorites, that can easily be used for science credit, research, or enjoyment for kids (and their adults):

*Bears is a Disney Nature film and the most recent doc we've watched together. This story follows a female brown bear and her two cubs over the course of one year in the Alaskan wilderness. The shots of the grizzlies all together fishing for salmon are unique (I've never even seen photos of that many grizzlies together!) and the cubs' shenanigans are entertaining. The scenery is top-notch, although the narration was probably my least favorite from a kids' nature doc; a bit cheesy at times.

*Born to Be Wild is an IMAX movie that is narrated by Morgan Freeman. With narration on the mind, Morgan could just retire and speak over animal documentaries for the rest of his career. He's just that good at it. This story is simultaneously about orangutan and elephant rescue, although the facilities followed in this movie are not the same. I enjoyed the elephant half of the movie more, but only because the release of the baby elephants at the end. No spoilers, but grab the kleenex.

*March of the Penguins is a National Geographic household name doc that came out years ago and perhaps set the ball in motion for all these top production & film companies to follow suit with kid nature documentaries. This is a gold-standard with Morgan Freeman, adorable babies, and captivating information told in story form following one-year with the penguins. Even the bonus features are worth the watch.

*African Cats is another Disney Nature imprint and gives a look at cheetahs and lions of the savannah regions in Africa. I particularly remember Lukka being the most interested in this movie, and the cuddly kitties didn't disappoint. There are some adorable shots of the cat families but also some powerful parts of ferocity (like the lion growling at the crocodile).
Want to learn more about lions after the kids are in bed? Check out the film The Last Lions. It's definitely NOT suitable for children but is an incredible nature doc about the pack cats. You can watch the whole thing for free HERE on youtube.

*Oceans is the third Disney Nature on the list, and in my opinion, their very best so far. The shots are incredible, truly BBC and NatGeo quality, and the doc is informative and playful. The focus of kids' nature docs are almost always on the relationships between animal, parent, community/herd, and earth/humans and this movie does a great job at all of those. Just watching the trailer for it makes me want to watch it again.

*Planet Earth by BBC is a series of nature documentaries that is split up between geographical locations, and it is the pinnacle of the nature doc, in our opinion. We own this box set on DVD and it's so good that we're willing to go so far as to say that just about any person will love these docs, whether you're a kid or an adult. They are narrated by David Attenborough, who is thoroughly entertaining, quick-witted, and British, making him the king of nature docs.

***Upcoming Nature Docs, 2015***

 Monkey Kingdom

 Island of Lemurs (narrated by our good friend Morgan)

So what are you waiting for? Pop your popcorn already and cuddle up this Fall and Winter with your family and a great nature documentary. You'll learn something new about God's spectacular creation and make memories worth savoring.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Head Above Water

When you get a sunny day in a Pacific Northwest Fall, you drop everything, go play outside and laugh at your good fortune!

We moved into Canada just under a month ago, and I still have the residual feeling of anxiety over what still needs to happen within our family to fully be "here". I haven't blogged nearly at all in that time (boxes were priority, spending time with friends, and our laptop crashing were a few of the reasons) and I realized although I was thinking about blog posts, I wasn't actually writing them.


We just had a three-day weekend to celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving and it was so needed. Just that one extra day made a lot of difference. I unpacked the rest of the boxes while Stefan and the kids went out exploring in the canoe, caught up on some of my TV addictions (Nashville, New Girl), and just felt like I had a few hours to catch up and get my head screwed back on straight, or what my grandpa might have said, 'slowed down those BBs in the boxcar'. That is a pretty accurate description of how my brain has felt this past month.

We still have a lot of work to do. Moving one's lives internationally has been a bit more of a hassle than I thought. The banking here is about 10 years slower than I'm used to. Our car situation is like a Seinfeld episode (more on that in another post). We have so many different governmental applications to still fill out (6, to be exact) in the  next two weeks. Along with adjusting to a new home school system (it's brilliant, that's a total bonus) and keeping up with the kids' schoolwork, our families, and our bills, and timelines for everything from license plates to American bills due, the lungs have been filling up quick if you get what I'm saying!

But. Today, after a 24 hour downpour, the sun came out, the clouds parted, and it was a gorgeous fall day. We went to the library, found a nearby and new-to-us jungle gym park, and went outside to de-stress and just enjoy the day. I'm slowly acclimatizing. Solutions to problems are being worked out. Friends are helping (oh! the friends!) and more importantly, praying. Even though I'm often waking up at night and giving myself a headache with my non-stop internal Rolodex of lists, I'm feeling like my head is resurfacing above the water. I'm here again.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

What I Read in September

found in a community garden in Blaine, WA

The silence around here has not been intentional. I (as usual) have overestimated my obligations, administrations (oh! the phone calls!), and stress my body can take with a move. This past one was international and I think aside from driving 1800 miles with 2 kids and 2 vehicles in 3 days, it has been 'the dooziest', if that were a word.

When duties got too overwhelming or I had listened to one too many automated services for one day, I would bury my head in the sand in a book and tell myself, 'tomorrow'. Look, dear readers, I even read a fiction book! Now where's my cookie? Five might look like a lot but don't be amazed, two of those five were poetry books and took all of one hour of naptime or a long back-and-forth drive with the family. I sure loved this month's choices, though!

*What the Living Do by Marie Howe was recommended by one of my favorite journalists, Krista Tippett, on her NPR segment, On Being. I've actually listened to this podcast three times now (with Marie) because I am so inspired by how she teaches her students to notice, and to not make metaphor with their observations. For a poetry instructor, that's a rare stance. This collection was mostly about family, her brother John, specifically, who lost his life to AIDs in 1989. Beautiful, sad, nostalgic writing.

*Interuppted by Jen Hatmaker was brought to my attention via facebook. I follow Hatmaker on facebook for her witty rants and sincere love for the marginalized in her hometown of Austin, TX. She has numerous books out including bestseller 7, which I read years ago, and wrote the other day, 'people ask me which book of mine they should read, and I always tell them Interuppted' and so I thought I'd read it, since I enjoy her voice. It is sort of the memoir/manifesto of Austin New Church (ANC) and how her and her pastor/husband Brandon came to change their consumer ways, throw all that away in the midst of major wonderings and panic attacks, and grip on to grace as the only way. Really good.

*The Legend of Sheba: The Rise of a Queen by Tosca Lee is the author's fourth single novel written as biblical historical fiction. I rarely read fiction but when I do I love to loose myself in historical fiction. I've always had a thing for it and honestly since I was about 9 or 10 I would consistently choose the Dear America diairy series over any other books for young adults. I have read all of Tosca's book (she's local, Lincolnites!) and I love them. Her writing and research gets stronger with each book and although biblical + fiction seems to be an oxymoron for a Christian, they are so well done. This story was about the legend of the queen of Sheba and Solomon, and their meeting as sovereigns in ancient history. Not much is mentioned about Sheba in the bible (I had actually just read the part where she is mentioned right before I picked this up, how coincidental!) but it is believed that Solomon and her had a child who ruled as King of Ethiopia (later called) and their blood line ran for 3,000 years until Haile Selassie passed. This story has everything an historical fiction lover could want (mention of true people, documents, artifacts and descriptions of places long lost) along with strong female character and on par writing. I can't wait for her next one!

*The Kingdom of Ordinary Time by Marie Howe was her second book I had put on hold and although I enjoyed a few of the poems from this book immensely, I didn't find that the overarching theme of the book was easy to find. The book didn't flow as well as the last, though that could have been I was reading it quickly, and in between car trips. It was short, and of course Howe's poetry is clever (or she wouldn't be New York's poet laureate) but this wasn't my favorite.

*Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell is the kind of nonfiction I was born to read and enjoy. I don't know what took me quite so long to finally go through one of his books, but I absolutely know I want to read every other book he's written. This kind of social/cultural nonfiction mysteries are right up my alley. Outliers looks at what makes success, and even the prologue is fascinating. I was often stopping to re-read sections to Stefan out loud and when I'd finish with the excerpt, I'd ask, "Isn't that fascinating?" to which he always replied yes. It's not just me, Gladwell's writing is fabulous, accessible, interesting, and academic (citing study after study and doctor after doctor within different fields) and they really read like a mystery novel. You want to keep going at the end of each chapter to find out how it all fits together.

Monday, September 15, 2014


Please understand the silence for the next week or two. We are moving internationally, and although my best intentions will be to get internet up and running as soon as possible, but that depends on availability in our area. Thank you! See you on "the other side"!

Saturday, September 13, 2014