Saturday, February 28, 2015

What I Read in February

Crescent Beach trail in White Rock 

*The Dip by Seth Godin This book was so tiny! I was surprised when I got it via paperbackswap and it's basically a novella. Well, a non-fiction one. A 70+ pager. I used to follow Seth's inspiring and interesting (and minimalist in the best sense) blog and I had wanted to read a book written by him. This one was on my PBS list and it became available (for free) so I snagged it up. I think I read it in one sitting and it was entertaining. It was about when to know if you need to quit, and when you need to keep waiting on the uphill slope because you're soclose and nearlythere. My recommendation? This would be an excellent gift for a recent high school or college grad. It's applicable to everyone, but I'd narrow it down even more.

*A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle Well. This book was simply charming in every sense of the word. I was waiting no-so-patiently for my holds at the library and knew it'd be a week or two (or three!) before I got the first one, and I remember finding this little gem at the local Salvation Army for $1. I am so glad I bought it because I have two people already who I want to pass it on to. This is a memoir of Mayle's and his wife's first year, broken up by chapters of each month, of their year renovating an old villa in Provence, in France. The writing is top-notch. The descriptions of the food would make Julia Child salivate, and the descriptions of people and places in this rural (yet during the summer touristy) place are parfait! It was great fun to read in dreary and rainy winter, where I was transported to sunny vineyards and quirky neighborhood bistros. Loved it.

Currently Reading:

*Yes, Please by Amy Poehler Although I'm technically one day late, I'll probably finish Miss Poehler's book today, since I only have 100 pages left and it's a fast one. In this memoir Amy talks about all the places she's lived and worked doing improv before hitting Saturday Night Live, growing up in a great family, and spreading hilarious tips and tricks about all things life. I don't know much about her but I'm really enjoying her book. Any book that I am laughing out loud in the preface is usually going down in my book as a good read. Usually only David Sedaris gets that kind of credit, but this has had me laughing out loud a lot. She's lewd, anxious, and cusses a lot, but she seems to have a heart of gold as well. I waited for three months (!) for this book and I'll have it done in 3 days tops. She's in high demand. Wouldn't recommend this to people who get offended by language, drug or sexual content and the like, but I'm having some good laughs myself.

*A Circle of Quiet by Madeline L'Engle  This is the first of 3 of the Crosswicks Journals, nonfiction letters (of sorts) written by L'Engle telling, I presume, part of her life's story, part of her stories' lives, and part spiritual memoir in all of it. I'll leave more of a review when I finish it!

What did you read recently that you loved? Leave it in the comments!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Author Event in Downtown Vancouver, and a Tiny Humblebrag

Last weekend we spent a delightful Saturday in downtown Vancouver for a few reasons:

1) If we ever go to Vancouver, a Lemonade stop is mandatory.
2) I wanted to go to the meet-up of Simple Bites blog author Aimee Wimbush-Bourque, to celebrate her new book Brown Eggs and Jam Jars.
3) ...and, if it's going to be sunny in February, we're going to Stanley Park.

When I originally asked Stefan if we could make a trip into the city for the cookbook jam (see what I did there?), he said sure, and even though we don't ever celebrate Valentine's Day, I felt pretty loved that he'd take me there even though he had no interest whatsoever, and would have to watch the kids while I was at the event. 

The cookbook was the one item I was going to ask him for for my birthday the following month, so I convinced him to get it one month early so I could have it signed at the event. The book is beautiful and full of so many good things besides the delicious recipes, like essays on how to talk to kids about where meat comes from, camping/picnic/daytrip food advice, and delightful hand-drawn illustrations by the author's father. Of course, I wouldn't buy a cookbook if it wasn't full of pictures, and Aimee's styling is so beautiful. If you're like me and need a regular jolt of in-the-kitchen inspiration for dinnertime, follow her instagram photos. They're all gems and give just that. 

We don't go into Vancouver often, maybe 5-7 times a year, mostly to visit relatives. It's a beautiful city, but my favorite place is on the outskirts; a small peninsula that has a seawall, numerous beaches, walking and biking trails, large parks with jungle gyms, totems and other historical representations, and tons and tons of trees and green space: Stanley Park. 

There really isn't a bad view in the entire park, and you may feel like a tourist snapping photos and exclaiming at every angle, "can you just look at that view!" because I certainly still feel this way.  Don't be surprised if you can't get it to look the same as what you see, with the curves of the land, the city-scape, the mountains and islands in the background, the trees! It's so pretty. This winter has been mild and we've had a lot of sunshine. Nearly an entire week of sunshine so far, which is very rare (or so I'm told). Vancouver was showing off, and we took full advantage while the kids played barefoot in the sand.
Now...who's coming up for a visit?! 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Birthday Interview for My Girl! SIX!

Ani doing her sticker books at the beach

What is your favorite color? Purple
Who are some of your friends? too many to count, I can't keep track of them!
What do you want to be when you grow up? Other than a dance teacher, I'd have to think about it
What makes you happy? toys, books, movies, stickers, crafts, and I don't know what else!

Ani trying her first taste of bubble tea (she thought it was gross)

What is your favorite animal? cat and dog and panda
What is your favorite book? the comic My Little Pony
What is your favorite thing to do with Mom? Read books!
What is your favorite thing to do with Dad? go to Tim Hortons
What is your favorite thing to do with Lukka? I think, like, LEGO, and stuff
What do you like to do with your friends? play with My Little Ponies and talk with them

Ani with her birthday brownie cupcakes, cream cheese frosting and rainbow sprinkles

What do you like to do outside? make a snowman
Where do you like to go? To the park, the library and going on hikes and walks
What is your favorite food? Cereal and muffins
What is your favorite drink? Milk and water

Ani ready to play in her birthday 'party dress' this morning

What is your favorite thing to watch? My Little Pony!!!
What is your favorite song to listen to or sing? Let it Go and Frozen the disc (I think she means all the songs on the cd)
What is your favorite toy? Twilight Sparkle (My Little Pony)

You can see Ani's 5th year interview here.

Friday, February 6, 2015

29 Before 30: Take Ani Out on a Gluten-free Girl Date

enjoying a peanut-butter chocolate bar from Wendel's in Ft. Langley

My 29 Before 30 list still has another two months on it, but I've really slacked this year. One item I knew would make it was "take my girl out for a gluten-free cupcake date". Out here there are enough gluten-free bakeries and shops to find and explore, and it just so happened I found one that I'd first heard of at the Vancouver Gluten-Free Expo, right near where we had to drop Lukka off for a class. Perfect!

They didn't have cupcakes, so we got the next best thing: a chocolate peanut butter bar. This gluten-free bakery shared space with a bookstore in a historic part of the lower mainland that had beautiful scenery and adorable little store fronts along the main street. We visited Wendel's around 1:45 and it was still packed with the lunch crowd. The cafe is very tight quarters but all the employees shuffling around us were apologetic and very nice. We found a great spot outside on the sunny day and enjoyed our bar together.

Ani loved spending the hour and a half together, and I'm thankful I get two more of these days with her while Lukka is in his class. She was happy to walk down the main street, wanting me to stop and read the historical information signs that dot the sidewalk every few store lengths. She wanted to check out the bookstore, too, and sat quietly reading in the kid's nook while I got to nose around myself. We were two little book-loving introverts with happy hearts, and a chocolate peanut-butter cherry on top. Next time I'm taking her to a little cafe on the same street that sells bubble tea!

The yearly list is just a way for me to write down things I want to do and be intentional with my time. Sometimes a lot of them get checked off, sometimes not, but there is no excuse for boredom in my book. There's too many places to explore, too many new experiences to try, and too many gluten-free cupcake shops to scout out! 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

What's Saving My Sanity, Sick Edition

Two sickies on a couch, to be followed by me on the floor
  • Playing Slamwich, horizontally.
  • Ditto Orchard, and having the kids hand me the pieces I'm accumulating.
  • This free Transformers app, for him
  • Our rolling luggage, which the kids have made into a bed, curled up into, and take turns giving each other 'rides'. The things they come up with when TV and computers aren't an option (when I've lost my ever-lovin' mind trying to yell with my nonexistent voice about the whininess of wanting to watch more TV)
  • intermittent naps on the couch while they watch movies from the library. The first day or two, when none of us got off the couch (all 3 of us sick with the flu!). Can't really do that with babies unless they're sleeping, but a 7 & 5 year old? Totally can.
  • Finishing a really good book, laying down.
  • Cheerios, goldfish, popcorn and anything reachable and non-dairy. All the energy, people. It's really okay for them (and myself) to subsist on snacks for 5 days if it's The Best You Can Do.
  • Costco-sized toilet paper packages. I've gone through three rolls in the past four days...FOR MY NOSE (gross, guys).
  • Chapstick (non-medicated) rubbed profusely around my nose after every nose-blow. Seriously guys, no pain! (tip: if you rub a peppermint infused chapstick underneath your nose, you will help drain the stuffiness so you can breathe! Magic.)
  • Gilmore Girls on Netflix. Thank goodness for Gilmore Girls, who have entertained me for over ten cumulative hours this week.

Monday, February 2, 2015

What I Read in January

Ani's "family of hearts"

I didn't read much in January but that wasn't for lack of trying. I finished a book right out the shoot of the new year and then spent the rest of the 31/2 weeks on another. It was heavy but good, and if it weren't for my self-imposed "one chapter a day" rule, I might not have finished it, but I'm glad I did. 

All the Money in the World by Laura Vanderkam was the second book I'd read by her and although I thought it was interesting, it just wasn't that practical for me. She has great tips, tricks, and common sense logic around the topic of money but frankly I knew all of it. There wasn't anything glaringly obvious that I'd missed and so while I found her interviews and anecdotes fun to read, I didn't get much out of this book. I think her time-management book, 168 Hours, is a better rec. for most people.

Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering by Timothy Keller was the other book I finished in January. With a title like that, obviously this is going to be a heavy-topic book, and it was. But it was also so, so good. I'm really glad I read it, and at times, forced myself to get through it. I wrote down a lot of quotes from this book, things that I believe have been true in my own life and that I want to grab on and take with me whenever the next hill arises. 
I originally wanted to read this when I first heard it coming out and that it had a well-received review by Joni Eareckson Tada. It kept popping up all over the place, and after a solid 18 months of hit after hit, I felt it would  be helpful to read it.  I did the right thing waiting until after I felt that period in our lives was on the mend, I don't know that I could have read the book while going through it. This book talks about everything from apologetics and theology to fleshing out the book of Job and what Hope is. We never have words for people we know whom have suffered deep hits in their life, but I feel Keller does bring a bit of comfort through his words here.

Next up: finishing Half-Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls, followed by Yes, Please by Amy Pohler. 

Friday, January 30, 2015

Friday Links

Fort to Fort Trail in Ft. Langley, BC on a beautiful January day

Another month, another batch of awesome links. I found some great education, science, and art links this time around. Enjoy! 

*40 Creatives and Their Workpaces -- I love how simple so many of them are: just a desk, a window, and inspiring books and visuals surround most.

*This coat. If it actually came in my size I wouldn't think twice about the impulse buy. 

*This article is amazing and slightly concerning. Why can't we have these in North America?

*These global photos are interesting, beautiful, and at times, shocking: screen-use around the world.

* This Amazon Warehouse article was hilarious. I love the quote here, "The amount of stand-up life-size Justin Biebers I saw was unnecessary...” 

*We don't have any plans to travel aside from seeing family this year, but if we were going on an extended camping or backpacking trip, this Scrubba wash bag, and this portable clothesline would be my top two items to invest in. 

*I'd really like to see this documentary at some point. 

*Just a fun bit of kid's lit humor: "Issues with The Goodnight Moon Bedroom". 

*This is the most gracious and well-balanced thing I've read re: Disney Measles situation. 

*Loving this arty and nature-y vibe of this instagramer.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Rule of Threes

Costco aftermath

This is what my kitchen looks like for at least an hour after a Costco trip. I haul in everything after an exhausting journey through the busiest store (seemingly) in this country and I just can't do a dang thing more. For an hour. While I get a breather. And eat some obligatory reward chocolate.
Eventually I'll get to those piles and everything will be put in it's proper place, but usually it stays like this for that necessary hour. 

I don't think I'm alone in sensing that our culture has gone hog-wild with unrealistic expectations in just about every department, and I want to tell my friends, and anyone else who will listen, that we can only do so much in a day.
 My husband once told me a friend of his pondered the busy-ness of our modern lives and said something to the effect of, "God gives us just enough time in the day to do only the things we need to do." My response? "Well of course a man said that!" I really was only half joking.

All humor aside, since becoming a parent, I have felt more expectations than I ever had in my combined 22 years before that. We all feel pressure to have a neat and tidy house, dinner on the table (and healthy! just the 'healthy' options tire me out), neat and tidy and calm, obedient children, endlessly participate in said children's academic and extracurricular lives, have a great marriage that is always given an ample amount of attention, keep in touch with friends on a regular basis, and obviously have a pinterest-worthy hobby or two or five. Sometimes, I have a hard time figuring out what's not only realistic, but what my own expectations are of myself, or if I'm tag-teaming on other people's priorities just because we all know what everyone else is doing (thanks internet).

When my kids were toddlers and they are only interested in a specific toy, book, or activity for less than 5 minutes each, your house is essentially ruined for what feels like a decade. For me, realistically, it was chaotic for 5 years, only because I have two children. The more children, the more you can up those years of your house looking like it was the setting for Twister. This is when the Rule of Threes came to me. Probably when I was blankly staring at a wall for an hour in silence when they napped, trying to figure how to get my bone-tired bum off the couch and start the next thing that needed prepped to keep the house running like a well-oiled, clean machine. 

The Rule of Threes is simply this: you can have one main thing happen well in a house where children also live. Those three 'things' are the following: 
a) dinner made and ready to eat
b) a clean house
c) happy, calm children engaging with mom.

Honestly. That's it. It's realistic to have one of those things happen every evening around witching hour dinner time. It's superhuman to have two of them done by the time my husband walks in the door. If all three are happening at the same time? You should look for bodies, because mommy has gone loco and you walked into Crazytown. She will take out her suppressed rage on you when the kids are tucked in, so best just scoot her out the door with a $20 and kiss her goodbye for the evening. 

Sure, I've had enough 'twofer' days in my time, and it eases up a bit when the kids are old enough to actually engage in meaningful chores like prepping dinner, vacuuming, cleaning  bathrooms, etc., but often when two of those things are happening, I'm about ready to spontaneously combust. It's just not worth my adrenal gland shrinkage and my husband walking into a warzone. 

Plus, the house is dirty 10 minutes later anyway. 

Monday, January 26, 2015


The internet is like my most hated best friend. I mean, I don't really have one of those, but the information and activities overwhelm and excite me. I get bogged down with all that I'm consuming and communicating, yet I need it to stay connected to those I love. Artists, writers, cooks, and makers of all types inspire me from my living room but turning out creativity of my own is a challenge because of all that said consuming. 

I don't often join in online challenges, link-ups, or courses, but Elsie Marley of KCW fame is like my pretend cooler, older sister and I couldn't help myself when she came up with #TheCreativityClub. I had to join. Her ideas are so off-the-wall, like this awesome one, and I spontaneously commented an, "I'm in!" and here I was, in an online club. 

The internet is for the most part pretty anonymous unless you sign your name and you're someone famous (and even then, it's iffy), so if I hated the first week or never got around to it, who cares, right? I had thought about this assignment on and off all week. I was stewing and percolating and just like any sort of random burst of creative energy, I came up with it early Monday morning, the day it was due. I was writing my Morning Pages and this sentence showed up and I knew I liked it right after my pen dotted the period at the end.

The washi tape writing was great for a quote, since I don't know how to make any type of lettering look remotely professional over a photograph, or draw on photoshop, so I knew it was going to have to be handmade with some sort of textile or something. The little post-it was just a cute afterthought, but it goes well with the sentiment. I can't wait to see what next week's assignment is.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Movies in the Queue for 2015

Our family has a penchant for movie watching. We all have our favorites and the genres we're normally attracted to (him: action and strong hero/epic theme, me: drama with class acting, honesty and redemptive stories, true stories), and although often when we sit down to watch it's something he wants to watch, I do throw in my trump card from time to time. Funny enough, almost every single movie I choose, we both end up liking, though I can't say the same for his choices....!

I keep a running list of movies (along with books) that I want to try to see every year. I hit between 50-75% of them, and I end up liking nearly all of them. This month I even crossed off a movie my friends have been bugging me to see for ages: The Princess Bride. I'm not sure how I escaped my childhood without seeing it, but it might have been the last cult classic of it's time that I wasn't familiar with. Of course I liked it! Here's what else I want to watch in 2015; click on the links for youtube trailers.

I'm really excited to see these movies, and I knocked a lot off my list in 2014. What are you excited to see this year? What movie are you rooting for to win Best Film of the Year? (My nod is going to Boyhood or Theory of Everything.)

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Blue Birds by Caroline Starr Rose, and an Unlikely Friendship

When I was in mid elementary, my class was given the opportunity in something that would change my life forever. I know that's a bit dramatic, but looking back, it's one of those 'small step' times in my life that I can see how it made a difference in how I see the world. I signed up for a penpal who lived half the globe away. If my memory is correct than I was able to choose the top 3 countries or regions that I'd like to have a penpal from. For a large part of my K-8 career, I wanted to be an archaeologist, and I was ecstatic that I was able to receive letters from a girl my age in the country I read about a lot in my free time--Egypt.

When I received the first letter from my penpal, I couldn't wait to open it. The stamps, the envelope, the stationary--everything was so different than I had ever seen. This girl, my age, was named Yasmine and had dark eyes like me, and covered hair in her school photo. It was interesting to me that she would have her hair covered by a cloth (it should be said the place I grew up wasn't very diverse, at least I didn't know anyone who looked unlike me in a noticeable way until I was older), since I had never seen that before. She was very pretty, and drew me lovely pictures every time she wrote. Even her little brother wanted to write to me! We asked each other the regular questions: what's your favorite school subject? What's your favorite thing to eat? and I would marvel that something so flimsy-a piece of paper-could fly halfway around the world, not get lost, and contain so many differences, even the way she constructed her sentences was different than me!

 Twenty years later and I still have every single piece she sent. We had never met, and yet nearly 7,000 miles between us, we had a friendship through letters, drawings, questions, and school photos. Looking back, I know this small, actionable step was part of what made me me, because my view of the world got bigger through those letters. It was an experience where my interest in travel, cultures around the world, and my thirst for knowledge expanded and swelled. I wanted to know more about more people, not only in Egypt, but in other countries, too. I would go on to communicate with two other girls across the globe, one in Malaysia, and one in Ukraine, but never did I have the same rapport as with my first penpal, Yasmine. She was a friend who was so different, and yet, our differences made us interesting to each other. We both wanted to know more about each other, and that kept our communication alive.


I tell you this story because pieces of our past are interesting to others, even if they seem so small and insignificant to us. This was a memory from almost two decades ago, but it made such an impact on me that slowly, over the years of communicating with Yasmine, my worldview changed to open up to topics that still interest me today, travel, history, culture, diversity, and cross-cultural or unlikely relationships. If you wrap all that up in a book, well, then I'm sold. 

Blue Birds is a story about some of these things: historical markers, tensions between cultures, but at it's core, it's about unlikely friendships. The story takes place in the New World, specifically, the second set of new settlers from England and the Roanoke people who already live there. Alis,the main character from the settlement, finds her new surroundings beautiful, raw, and pure, and can't get enough of the natural world. She stumbles upon a native Roanoke girl, Kimi,and they communicate together secretly through symbols, facial expressions, touch, and gifts.

Life in the New World is tough, and there are tensions between these Englishmen and women and the woodlands people, blood is shed. As readers, we are allowed into Alis's and Kimi's thoughts, and we're given insight into the cultural biases and misunderstandings. All this, and it's written in poetry. There is a quick pace to this large historical novel, and I could have read it in just one sitting if I didn't have to force myself to go to bed. The poems are accessible, and even with less detail than is normally given to a novel, the word images, plot line, climax and resolution don't miss a beat because of Rose's fine tuning. The ending even left me surprised, and that doesn't happen often with the YA fiction I've read.

This post is part of a week-long celebration in honor of the book Blue Birds. Author Caroline Starr Rose is giving away a downloadable PDF of this beautiful Blue Birds quote (created by Annie Barnett of Be Small Studios) for anyone who pre-orders the book from January 12-19Simply click through to order from AmazonBarnes and NobleBooks A MillionIndieBound, or Powell's, then email a copy of your receipt by Monday, January 19. PDFs will be sent out January 20.

*I was given an advance reader's copy to review in exchange for a blog post/review, but the opinions expressed are entirely my own. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

This Homeschooling Life, in Photos

One of my favorite things about homeschooling, aside from sharing great books with my children, are the programs or extracurricular activities I get to take my kids to during the day. Now that we're in British Columbia, and enrolled in a distance learning school, HCOS, I don't even have to pay a cent for them! Each child gets an allotment of funding and we choose to spend most of those funds on fun things to do for the kids (or necessary things, like swimming lessons) that we wouldn't always find in the budget otherwise. 

Ani just started her first official ballet class that is for older kids (5-7 year olds) and her teacher is wonderful. This full front pose is her trying to reign in her excitement before the first class, new leggings on and sparkly! (Thanks, Oma!)

I remember a lot of workbooks over my school career, and although my kids do fill in workbooks four times a week for phonics practice and math, the rest of our time looks mostly like reading aloud, going on errands, fulfilling science requirements with experiments (grumble), doing art, preparing food, cleaning the house and just living life. Training my kids in chores from the time they were little (hint: yes it takes double if not triple the time, for a small amount of time, then years of reaping the benefits) has really brought forth fruit this year. Here is Ani helping in the kitchen with some food prep, something she loves to do, and that I love to pass on to her.

Just today we started another really fun program that the kids called Circus Lab. This is a stand-in for the beloved gymnastics they did last semester. I've never seen something like this for kids, or even adults, besides buying tickets to Cirque de Soleil, so I thought this would be a really neat opportunity. Even if they hated it, it was only for 6 weeks, and was free to us, so no harm no foul. Up above you can see Anikka on the trapeze about to practice a box. The kids all rotated from trapeze, hanging hoops, ceiling silks, and trampoline. They had a blast! 

Moving to Canada puts us right in hockey and ice-skating culture, and our city has a homeschool ice-skating session that will go through the rest of the winter. The kids have not had much confidence ice-skating without walkers, until they got to their skate lessons. The instructors encouraged them to try without, and they both went without for their individual 30 minute lessons. The other hour spent on the ice was for them to skate freely, and even parents, I learned, can pay a drop-in fee and skate. I definitely plan on doing that!

Here is another Circus Lab picture of Lukka on the silks, doing a box pose. Where else would they have the opportunity to experience and try out this kind of movement class? My first thought when I saw the hoops, silks, and trapeze was, "I want to do this with a bunch of girlfriends!" How fun would that be for a night out? 

Here is another activity our kids participate in that is monthly, local, and free: The Home Depot Kids Workshops! Check your local HD for times. The kids get a cute apron to keep and every time they finish a project they get a pin to put on their apron as a reward. Sometimes there are even cookies involved! Often, though, they are just happy to build a small wood-working project by themselves that includes nails, a hammer, glue, and paint. Here they've constructed an old-fashioned sled, and are painting it for a wall-hanging. 

This is a small glimpse into what day-to-day looks like with homeschooling young elementary kids. Of course there is a bit of workbook work, there's always reading, and quite often, there is a fun outing to be had on any given day. And of course, there's plenty of outside time when the weather permits! People often say to homeschoolers, "I could never do that" but honestly, the lifestyle hasn't changed much since they were young toddlers. We have a mix of play, learning (only add to books some scholarly endeavors), quiet time, food prep and general cleanup, fun activities, and There are power struggles, family tensions, compromise, and time outs, but if you're successfully raising kids--and I mean that they are alive, healthy, and have some sort of a hobby--you can successfully homeschool. It's really not complicated. 
I will leave you with this final thought about homeschooling: I get to see my kids everyday, and I have to see my kids everyday. I think all parents would agree with those sentiments!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Local Fun: Free Swims in Surrey, BC

Surrey Sport and Leisure Aquatics.
image via Surrey website

Ever since our family started and we decided to be on one income, we've had to be a bit more creative with 'field trips' and fun things to do that are good for the budget. I find it to be a bit of a game to master, the highest score going to FREE. Back in Lincoln there was a quarterly newspaper that held all the fun and local family-friendly events within about a 2 hour radius.
We don't have a paper like that out here, that I've found anyway (send those resources my way if you know about them!), but I have found the rec centers to be AMAZING out here. There are seemingly endless amounts of programs you can put your young students in, even better for homeschoolers is that very often you can get funding for them! Those don't include the entire family, though, just the kids. We've found that although it's not necessarily advertised on the website, each weekend there is a FREE 2-hour family swim time at one of four Surrey rec centers that have pools. One, an especially kid-friendly one has a wave pool and spray-jungle gym. All of them have hot tubs, too! If you're local, let me know if you want to meet up!

Here is the schedule:

Swimming Pool
Free Time & Day
Free Swim Date
North Surrey Indoor Pool
Saturday 2pm-5pm
Last Saturday of each month
Newton Wave Pool
Sunday 6pm-8pm
Second Sunday of each month
Surrey Sport & Leisure Pool
Sunday 3pm-5pm
Third Sunday of each month
South Surrey Indoor Pool
Saturday 1pm-4pm
First Saturday of each month

Taken via this website.

There are TONS of free things to do in your own neighborhood (unless you pretty much live off the grid), you just have to find them. This has been a great winter activity for all of us to do. About half the time I go with the family, the other times Stefan takes the kids on his own. Honestly, we normally just stay for about an hour, and bring change if you need a locker. It's a great way to get some exercise, do something out of our ordinary routine, and do it all for free. We save $30-$40/month with this activity.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Friday Links

the kids playing with Lukka's ZomeTool (Creator 1)

Today I'm going to post some links, and I'm going to recycle them from last year back when I was doing the December Photo Project. I'm doing this because 1) December is it's own craziness, and 2) these are such good links I don't want anyone to miss them even though they were wedged between 25 photos. Enjoy your weekend!

*Artists play with their holiday food.

*Laniakea--the supercluster of galaxies that The Milky Way finds itself in, is not only beautiful, but mind-boggling. Watch this 4 minute video that is really well done. 

*Whether you can stomach Penelope Trunk's abrasive homeschooling arguments or not, her post "sitting is the new smoking" was pretty interesting.

* Mean tweets with Jimmy Kimmel is such a good waste of your time. This one, at :43 with Larry King made my stomach hurt I was laughing so hard. What?

*I am totally getting behind this trend of 'backstory' fairy tale movies. This Peter Pan one next summer looks really good. 

*You guys, this cookbook. Cough, birthday idea, cough cough.

*I'm not usually a fan of pop music or the radio, but Taylor Swift? Cutting ties with Spotify. Making awesome and ironic videos. Killing it. This will be named one of the best albums of 2014. Seriously surprised by how much I love it.

*This 3-minute video of a drone flying over Chernobyl was fascinating. And disturbing.

*Want your kids to be bilingual? Songs work really well, and they already know the tune to these ones!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

House Tour in Black and White Photos

Today is the house tour! I've finally got my act together, (don't look at the curtain situation, or lack thereof in most rooms) and took a few photos of each room in our new house. The kids' rooms are messy, partly because I snapped these during quiet time, when they occupy, play in, and untidy the room for 2.5 hours, and partly because I haven't done a deep clean with each of them in about a month. You'll get the general idea, though. I took all the photos in black and white to save you from the horrible colors of the paint. Really and truly, about 3 of my 5 least favorite colors are in this house, and we have no plans to change them because this house has already been sold to a developer. 

Above and below are two views of Ani's room, full of dolly items, My Little Pony figures, and books. We don't really dictate what goes on the wall or where, with the exception of a few pieces. I chose the spot for the 5-panel picture frame, made by her Aunty Kristen, and she randomly hung the cross and stencil (?) where she wanted. Her room is perhaps the only normal color, though it's still fairly morose. It's a brownish maroon, with cream-colored carpeting.

Below is a half photo of our main bathroom. It's very plain. One shower, a toilet behind that, and two sinks. The cabinet space below is amazing and still half-way empty. We can fit an entire costco toilet paper pack under there! I'm impressed.

Below is a entry view of Lukka's room. This room is a horrid shade of neon green, and there are so many pock-marks on the wall from nails and screws it's unbelievable. It also has cream carpeting on the floor, along with a leftover from the previous tenants--about 7 strips of sticky leftover adhesive ON the carpet. I've tried a couple tricks to get it off, but nothing comes off. Who puts adhesive on the carpet? Oh well, for the time being, we cover it with a multi-colored rug. Both rooms have great light, which is a bonus. Unseen: a closet, a bookcase, and the bench you see in the lower right-hand corner folds over to become his desk. He enjoys rearranging the furniture every so often to change things up.

Here's only a small view of our room. The window is three panels long (!) and behind me is a large dresser (Stefan's), and a half bath. To the left of this photo are two large closets with shelving above both of them. We also have most space in here unused, there are about 5 closets throughout the hallway, and most of them are empty. We have TONS of room in this house. I knew we wouldn't be nearly as cramped as we were the past 18 months in Blaine. This rental is almost double the size!

Next is our large 'bonus room'. I'm not sure what this room would have been used for originally. There is a wood paneled ceiling (?), the room is gigantic, and the floor is cement. To the left of the photo below is an extra large sliding glass double door that opens to the large covered back patio. Since we moved in the Fall, we didn't use our patio but once we clean it off (the glass covering is full of rotting leaves before we moved in, it really needs to be cleaned), I'm sure we'll host barbecues frequently. Currently our outdoor table and chairs are here and we use the other area for cutting wood for our fireplace. 

Since you can see above, the kids have made their little play corner their own. The large cardboard spread is Ani's project she's been working on and off of for about a month. It is covered in art she's made, pom poms glued on, etc. I'm not sure what she uses it for other than when they play "restaurant", they use it to 'enclose the kitchen'. Behind it is the little wooden kitchen items: a handmade stove & oven, and a handmade refrigerator. Next to that is her dollhouse, and across the carpet on the other side is the art easel next to our filing cabinet, printer, and desk.

Again, the photo was taken during 'restaurant' season, so those upside down tubs and tops are the restaurant's tables and chairs. The space is huge, though the photos don't do the square footage justice. This is used 5X/week as my workout room. Twice a week I ride my spinning bike and three times a week I do a Jillian Michael's workout. Since this room is huge and has a cement floor, it's perfect for that because you can't hear anything either below or from the bedrooms. I get my workout in every morning before the kids even wake up. It's perfect! You can also see the huge 3 paneled window near the desk, and the OTHER sliding glass door near the bike. That leads out to a covered, and quite long, front deck. See the view I see while on the bike here.

This room is huge, what can I say. This is the third view of the bonus room, basically the wall of storage. That Canada school map covers up some random stuff that was pasted to the wall ages ago, and the little dresser in front of it holds Stefan's tools. All our bikes are hung up, and the rest of the shelving goes to things like camping gear, Christmas decor, and other random things you'd find in a garage (we don't have one). It's not beautiful, but it totally works!

The door you can see in the above photo is actually the entry door we use everyday. This house has a large front door (well, 2 front doors, actually!) area that is just completely wasted space. There is no walkway or path up to the front door, and it's not near the parking area, either, so we just use the back door. They pretty much stay locked and the kids play on the carpeted steps that you'd walk up if you used it. Whatever! This above view is a long view of 1/2 our kitchen. Yes, it's huge compared to what we've had in the past, and it is sooo nice to have a lot of people in here without feeling completely crowded. This wall of cabinetry is full of pantry goods and baking supplies, but the cabinets below the counter aren't. Some are still empty, that's how much space we have!

Here is a second view of the kitchen, standing near the door you saw in the last (above) photo. You can see more (TONS MORE!) cabinets, dishwasher, oven, stove top and connected island. I love this kitchen, but I hate the floor. It's white vinyl. It's only one step up from the sweet black and white checkered vinyl we had in our owned home back in Nebraska. You can clean it and it will look spotless, for *maybe* ten minutes. It looks dirty every day. I sweet it every other day, and I can't ever get some of the stains off the floor. Sigh. White! It's a mistake. Especially in a kitchen.

The photo above is one view of our family/living room. You can see a large mantle, wood-burning fireplace (with "Winter" banner hanging in front of it), and where our TV is. Our couch looks so small in this large room with a near-full wall of window, but frankly, we're fine with it. There are three (think Goldilocks and the Three Bears') sizes of rocking chairs off to the side, and we can always bring more chairs in with lots of people over.

Here is the view of the back of the room, where our three bookcases are, and the sliver of black you can see in the bottom left-hand corner is our old TV armoire. Right now it houses Stefan's large amp on the inside, his base hung on the side, and photos up top. Any piece of furniture I can close to spare me from the eyesore of cords and the like is a bonus!

Finally, the last view of the family room. See what I mean about the Three Bears' rockers? We have track lighting in 3 places in this room, and it's a good amount of light. Good thing, because we literally own two lamps, and the other is in our bedroom on our nightstand. We're very happy with this rental and we will savor the years we get to live here before they they tear down the neighborhood (!) to put in 1/2 acre plots and houses. We live in an area where everyone has a number of acres of property, and all of it is mostly forested, so we know it will take awhile to develop. We just don't know how long we'll get. All the other houses that are sold have renters living in them, so although it's temporary, and it's big, and we love it (and the location is wonderful, too), it won't last forever and we knew that going in. We'll enjoy it while we can!

Monday, January 5, 2015

2015 Book List

  Playing in the sand during a cold but clear day in White Rock

Although I like to take some time to personally reflect on the past year, New Years' is never something I overly celebrate or pursue as a Big Day for Goal Setting. I love a fresh, new year, but I prefer to do my goal setting around my birthday (29, 28), and keep it fun and for the most part, doable. I'm a big believer not in resolutions, but in the small, baby-step disciplines every day that lead to achieving goals.
The lists I really love to make though, and inevitably add to, every first week of January, is a book list. I keep a pen and paper list in my notebook, but I like having it listed here, too, for memory sake, and to perhaps give you guys some good titles to pass on. 

I NEVER can cross off everything on my booklist. I loose interest, I re-prioritize, and I find books newly published that I'm dying to read. I have also enjoyed keeping a visual running tab on pinterest via my Bookshelf board. Looking back, I realize I only read 15 out of my original 34 on my 2014 book list. I actually ended up reading 57 books, so I don't consider myself behind one bit! I keep my actual list small, and my expectations lower. I'm sure the only reason I read so many books this year than in years past was because it was my chosen form of escapism (we had a somewhat pitiful year), and entertainment, free from the library. Here's to 2015, and a great list of books!

*All the Money in the World by Laura Vanderkam (current read)
*Yes, Please by Amy Poehler
*50 Women Every Christian Should Know by Michelle DeRusha
*The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown and Daniel Brown
*Autobiography of A Face by Lucy Grealy
*Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering by Tim Keller (next up)
*Half Broke Horses by Jeanette Walls
*Leadership Education by Olivier deMille (half-way through)
*The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert
*The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
*A Circle of Quiet by Madeline L'Engle
*The Family Who Couldn't Sleep by D.T. Max
*Garlic & Sapphires by Ruth Reichl
*Packing for Mars by Mary Roach
*Lila by Marilynne Robinson
*True Spirit by Jessica Watson
*A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle (just found for $1 at the thrift store! yay!)
*Chasing Francis by Ian Morgan Cron
*Eight Twenty Eight by Larissa Murphy
*The Writing Life by Annie Dillard
*The Lost Girls by Jennifer Bagget
*Half the Sky by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
*The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt
*The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton
*All Joy and No Fun by Jennifer Senior
*Teach Your Children Well by Madeline Levine
*Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer
*Rising Strong by Brene Brown (Thanks, Modern Mrs. Darcy!)

Those aren't all, of course, and so many from last year that I didn't get to will remain in my notebook and on my 'proper' list. These are the 27 that are at the top of my list, though, and I hope to finish Vanderkam's tonight, Tim Keller's this week, and Amy's the week after that. It's a book lover's delight. 

What are the top 5 books you are dying to read this year?

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year // Welcome 2015!

Happy New Year, Dear Readers! 

2014 was lame and hard, and I'd really rather not do a recap. There were lots of little joys, goals reached, and family visits that were grand. Good points. 

Today, we're going to spend the day together and enjoy the look into the future. We've got a lot of fun things planned this year throughout the months, and we're looking forward to them, and keeping on.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

What I Read in December

Crescent Beach Pier

I had plenty of reading time this month, making up for November, and I finished 6 books and started 2 more on the 30th & 31st. Another year full of books! I averaged a book a week, which is pretty good. I wish I could read like crazy Modern Mrs. Darcy and hit a couple hundred, but 50+ still feels really good, and that's just reading for me, not including the novels I read to the kids for homeschool, picture books from the library, etc. What was your favorite book of 2014?

*Small Victories by Anne Lamott // This is Anne's newest book and you can bet your sweet face that I had that on order from the library the minute I found out about it. This book is a lot about cancer and death, and "it just is this side" than her others, but is still quirky and wonderful Anne. It's a book more similar to Help, Thanks, Wow, and Stitches, even the sizing of the book, and lucky for us it's a little bit thicker, too. A+, Anne. If you're new to Anne Lamott, you might want to read this series of hers first. She'll catch ya', hook, line, and sinker with those.

*Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kahling // Second female comedian book (Amy coming in 2015!) I've read. This felt like a really random book of thoughts by Mindy, but it was funny and although I've barely watched The Office (like, embarassingly few episodes) and haven't started The Mindy Project yet, I sorta' feel like I know her. The best part about this book is the androgynous picture and caption on the back of the book. Made me laugh for days. I'll get around to TMP, since it's on Netflix, but this didn't make me want to watch every single thing she's done, more just root for her as a female in comedy. Or whatever.

*A Bird on Water Street by Elizabeth O. Dulemba // I found the plot of this book intriguing--it's about a small Appalacian mining community on the cusp of an entire overhaul of union practices and nature regeneration. It's based on an actual place that literally had no green or living things around it because of the mining, and I love a good true story. I even found the notes in the back of the book enlightening and Dulemba inserts a number of photos that show the dirt. That was the landscape--dirt and buildings. It's a young adult novel and I read it while traveling, and I enjoyed it.

*Blue Birds by Caroline Starr Rose // This book I read as a review reader and will do a longer post on the blog in January. What I can tell you is this: this book is beautiful, starting with the cover, and ending with the last poem. I think I read this book in two days, and Rose's book has a really quick pace to it, so I could have read it in one, but I really needed to put it down to go to bed! It's a story about friendship, cultural clashes, and the history of the Pilgrims and natives on Roanoke Island.

*168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam // Well, I suppose this book seems sort of out of place with all these YA novels (3! in one month!) and memoirs, but I do love a good nonfiction + time management read. This book's subtitle says it all: you have more time than you think. Vanderkam has a pretty fluid writing voice and so it's easy to keep reading the anecdotes and the study summaries she does to prove her point that our culture has the most amount of leisurely hours in a week in the history of the world. "We" always say we'd like to do xyz, and always cite lack of time for the reason we never hit those goals, and just like that, we're 20 or more years behind on what we actually wanted to do with our lives. This book didn't get great reviews that I saw, but I was intrigued by the title and I enjoyed it. Who else might like it? Type Aers and fellow female INTJs. Unite, efficient friends!

*Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell // I actually posted on facebook that the first 50 pages were boring me, but I had read So. Many. Effing. loving reviews of this YA novel that I had to finish, and the humor was catchy. Well, right after page 50 things start picking up and I read this in one day. Nearly 400 pages (not verse) in ONE day. That's got to be a record for me, I'm not a fast reader. This book is about 2 kids who meet on the bus, and how they accidentally, and weirdly, fall in love. Eleanor has a crappy home life, and Park is that quiet nerdy guy in your high school with a heart of gold. It really should be a movie. It probably will be, since The Fault in our Stars got to be. I liked it. I'd recommend it. I didn't fawn over it, but it was really good. Also, Rainbow Rowell? Best author name ever.