Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Sunday, August 28, 2011

365 Moose

I think this is my best yet moose shot.

365 Japanese Planes

We were at the library when my husband spotted planes flying in formation nearby.  He told me they were three different kinds of Japanese planes, all flown in WW2.   We decided to drive to a better viewing location.

While driving, he asked me if I believed him that they were Japanese.  I told him I assumed he had studied the plane silhouette charts from WW2 as a child, so I did believe him.  He said I was right, he had studied those charts as a boy.

Later, he looked them up online, and learned that these were not authentic Japanese planes, but ones that were built for the film Tora, Tora, Tora in the 1970's.  They are accurate replicas of the airplanes used to bomb Pearl Harbour.
 I am really lucky my husband is so observant.  He is always spotting interesting things for us to see.  I am usually looking out the window, but daydreaming, and not really noticing a whole lot going on around me.  I didn't see the planes at all until he pointed them out, and there were eight of them.

365 An August Day In Jeb's Life

The day started rough for Jeb.  Here he is giving me the stink eye after his bath.

He forgave me when I let Trixie and him lick my food box.
Isn't it sweet how they share?
The afternoon brought more fun:  a walk in the mountains.
He likes walking with my daughter best, because she will run and climb 
and let herself be dragged down hills.

Plenty of good smells to sniff:  that is probably Jeb's favorite part of any day.

(If you are wondering why I bathed the dogs before taking them out in the woods, 
it is because Trixie rolled in something stinky.
If you're bathing one dog, you may as well bathe both.)

thoughts on: Home Staging: The Winning Way to Sell Your House for More Money

Home Staging: The Winning Way to Sell Your House for More MoneyHome Staging: The Winning Way to Sell Your House for More Money by Barb Schwarz

Barb Schwarz may have invented home staging, but her strategies seem to be stuck in the past.  Although her basic advice, declutter and clean everything, is sound, the photos in the book seem like they came from the 90's, not 2006, when the book was published.  I believe her when she says that she's had buyers fall in love with paper plate headboards and raffia tied towels, but I keep wondering when those looks were considered appealing.  (Actually, after the first few pages, I skipped the testimonial chapter.)

Part of the book is a sales pitch for why you should stage your house, preferably with a stager she has trained, and hire a realtor listed on her website.  She also pitches the idea of "staging for life," ie paring down and living in what looks like a model house.  Since staging is all about depersonalizing your house, I find that idea almost depressing.  I understand the reasons to stage your house to sell it, but living in a home, for me, is all about having it reflect who I am and how my family lives. 

If you want a truly helpful book on home staging that goes beyond "clean and declutter," I recommend Starr Osbourne's Home Staging that Works.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

thoughts on: Be Different

Be Different: Adventures of a Free-Range AspergianBe Different: Adventures of a Free-Range Aspergian by John Elder Robison

Robison's memoir, Look Me in the Eye, shared the ups and downs of his unusual life.  Be Different is more of a guidebook:  this is how I, an Asperigian, learned to navigate and succeed in the world, and you can, too.  It contains practical advice along with stories of how he learned it.

He begins by dividing people into three groups:  Aspergians, Proto-Aspergians (those with "plenty of aspie quirks but not too many disabilities"), and everyone else, the neurotypical, whom he dubs nypical.  Be Different is written to those in the first two groups, but anyone who interacts with them would benefit from reading it.

Most of the advice, or, at least the advice I could relate to the most, involved learning social skills.  Robison shares how difficult it has been for him to learn basic interpersonal skills, including how long it took him to realize the value in them.  He talks about how his lack of awareness, and that of other Aspies, is not lack of desire to connect with others and is not deliberate rudeness.   I felt he did well simplifying some of the basic interactions so that those on both sides could better understand each other.

His clear and direct style is easy to read and offers hope for those struggling to connect with others and find their way.  He repeatedly reminds young readers that often what is considered weird in childhood/adolescence is merely considered eccentric in adulthood and that delayed does not mean never.

thoughts on: Staged to Sell

Staged to Sell (or Keep): Easy Ways to Improve the Value of Your Home (Interior Design)Staged to Sell (or Keep): Easy Ways to Improve the Value of Your Home by Jean Nayar

Despite the title, this book was not primarily about staging your home for sale. It was a fairly standard decorating book, complete with a seven question style quiz and photos of rooms decorated in their seven styles.  (Yes, I chose one answer from every category.)

I skimmed through it, in case it contained any gems on  home staging, but, no, it did not.  It did not give practical advice on improving the value of your home, either.  There were no cost comparisons on how much of a return to expect on improvements, no advice on how to market your home, nothing.  Just decorating.

Monday, August 15, 2011

thoughts on: The Elephant Whisperer

The Elephant Whisperer: My Life with the Herd in the African WildThe Elephant Whisperer: My Life with the Herd in the African Wild by Lawrence Anthony

I can't say that Anthony made me fall in love with elephants, because I've loved them forever.  I can't say that he made me want to visit Africa and see them in the wild, because, well, who doesn't want to do that?   I can say that I have spent the afternoon looking at Thula Thula, Anthony's reserve, online and wishing I could go there now.  Or next summer.

Lawrence Anthony does not just love elephants, he loves all animals.  He shares that love with his reader, recounting both successes and mistakes he has made in the years he has been operating Thula Thula.  Some of the mistakes are heart wrenching.  Some of life is.

The relationships he develops with the elephants are amazing, and he is quick to point out that they are the whisperers - teaching him to listen and understand.  He is a most willing and attentive pupil, though, and I am glad he shared what he has learned with us.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

365 Baby Love

I love babies.  Holding babies.  Photographing babies.  Playing with babies.  Everything about babies.

Who's Been Sleeping in My Bed?

This post is especially for my mom, who wishes I would post more about daily life.

Jeb does not sleep in bed with me.  Trixie does.  Jeb sleeps on the floor, half the night in the closet, half on top of my bedspread at the foot of the bed.  I only know this because he is always asleep in my closet when I put on my jammies and at the foot of the bed when I wake in the morning.  The thing is, Trixie and I have weaker bladders than Jeb, so we wake up pretty early, take care of that, then climb back into bed.

That is when Jeb climbs into my bed - while I am downstairs letting Trixie out.  Every morning, we come back upstairs to find him not only on the bed, but hogging MY pillow. Could he take up any more space? 

Friday, August 12, 2011

Freezer Paper Stencil Success

This was my daughter's design.
Pumpkin butt

My Craftastic friends came over this week.  Usually, we all work on our own projects, most of us knitting, but this time, we decorated onesies for the expectant mom among us.  We used the freezer paper stencil technique I'd seen on Pinterest (it was a complete Pinterest evening, both craft and snack).

You can find tutorials for freezer paper stencils all over blogdom, but the gist of it is that you cut a stencil out of freezer paper, iron the shiny side to the fabric, paint, let dry, remove, and voila!  sharp clean edges.

As you can see, it worked beautifully, even on the gauze diapers.

The most difficult part was cutting the stencils with an exacto knife.  Not that it was hard, but compared to ironing and painting, it was the most time consuming part of the process.

We had so much fun, and it was such an easy craft.  I think all of us are now trying to think of other things we can stencil.  One friend is planning to make t-shirt tote bags and stencil them.

I might do that, too.  Or have my daughter do it, as she can actually draw.  Maybe a Tardis Tote?  That would be fun! 

365 Stuffed Strawberries

I saw these on Pinterest, and knew they'd be perfect for craft night.  They were.  
Five of us finished off the entire plate.

Super easy recipe:
2 packs of strawberries
1 box of low fat cream cheese
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Hollow out the strawberries (I added the scooped out bits to a smoothie.)
Mix the other 3 ingredients on high until fluffy.
Use a pastry bag, knife, spoon, whatever, to stuff the fluff inside the strawberries.

365 Green Smoothie

I've been hearing people talk about green smoothies for years, all of them insisting that you don't taste the greens added to your fruit.  I decided last week to toss a couple handfuls of spinach in with my frozen mixed berries and milk.  Guess what?  You can too taste the spinach!  Now, admittedly, it is not an overwhelming taste of spinach, and I do like spinach, so the flavor is not bad, but it is present.  Have any of you tried green smoothies?  What did you think?  (I'm still adding the spinach, because it is good for me.)

365-Is there any point in continuing the numbers?

I have been so sporadic, that I don't see any reason to continue numbering my photos. I am months behind schedule. I still plan to share photos, but I'm not even attempting to do so with any regularity. Life just hasn't been that orderly lately. So, I'll continue with the "365" tag through the end of the year, but I totally understand if other 365ers stop following me....if any of you still are.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

thoughts on: Confessions of a Bad Beekeeper

Confessions of a Bad Beekeeper: What Not to Do When Keeping Bees (with Apologies to My Own)Confessions of a Bad Beekeeper: What Not to Do When Keeping Bees by Bill Turnbull

Beekeeping has long piqued my interest.  Not enough to take a class or read an instruction manual, just enough to google it every once in a while and to grab this book off the new bookshelf at the library.  I am so glad I did!  Turnbull entered beekeeping pretty much the way I would - underprepared.  He humorously recounts his adventures and misadventures as he learns what it takes to be a successful beekeeper.

Labeling himself a Bad Beekeeper, Turnbull tells both what he has done, and what he should have done along the way.  He gives a brief history of beekeeping, discusses modern problems bees and beekeepers face, and shares his incredible joy in spending time tending his hives.

I'm not ready to take up beekeeping yet (it's against my town ordinances anyway), but Turnbull has fed my desire to do so.

Monday, August 8, 2011

thoughts on: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar ChildrenMiss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Ransom Riggs built this, his first novel, around a collection of found photographs. Like the levitating girl on the book cover, many of these are of children who appear to have unusual powers. Others are simply odd or haunting. Taking these photos, he constructed a story around them, showing, then explaining them, as Jacob, the protagonist discovers or experiences them.

Told in the first person, Jacob crosses the threshold of adulthood when he learns that the childhood stories told by his grandfather were literally true, not euphemistic ways of explaining his youth escaping the holocaust and fighting as an Allied soldier. This parallel current of the genocide against the Jews makes the entire story more believable, grounding it in a specific experience, time, and place. Jacob's journey begins with his search to know his grandfather, a man loved but not understood by his family, but, of course, results in learning about himself and his place in the world in the process.

I would love to say more, but I think it is better to see this one unfold for oneself, so I will not.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

craft book: Itty Bitty Toys

Itty-Bitty ToysItty-Bitty Toys by Susan B. Anderson

I've knit two of Susan B. Anderson's free patterns (ribbit and rabbit), so grabbed this book when I spotted it at the library.  Cute, cute, cute.  I love that the toys are small, perfect for little arms to hug.  I think I must knit the hippo as a baby gift.

Friday, August 5, 2011

thoughts on: I'm a Stranger Here Myself

I'm a Stranger Here Myself: Notes on Returning to America After 20 Years AwayI'm a Stranger Here Myself: Notes on Returning to America After 20 Years Away by Bill Bryson

Bryson's collection of essays about returning to America after 20 years in England, were originally written for an English paper.  The pieces were a bit uneven.  Some were only skim worthy, while others were laugh out loud funny.

I found Bryson at both his funniest and when he was reminiscing about his childhood or talking about himself and his own family.  Who cannot relate to Christmas decorating, impatience, and road trips?  His issue-oriented essays fell rather flat.  Tax forms, government bureaucracy, politics - eh, not so much.

Still, most of the essays were enjoyable, and it was a perfect light summer read:  easy to pick up and read in quick stolen snippets of time.