Monday, December 5, 2011

Gift wrap

Oh, the things we come out of blog retirement for, right?

I just thought this was fun. I've been playing around with wrapping gifts with things from around the house. Found some fun ideas online, so I tried two with some gifts I needed to wrap. I'm sure I'll have plenty more practice time this December!

Here's a grocery bag for wrapping, with two different colors of yarn woven together. Easy peasy!

And this one I really loved! I used that old standby, newspaper, to wrap the gift. And then dressed it up with some bows made out of pages from magazines. I followed these directions, except I added a third 9" strip. They're a little time consuming...maybe 10 minutes to make each bow. But so pretty!

I guess I got a little carried away...the kids kept asking me to make more bows. They were picking pages for me to use!

Last year I experimented with using fabric to wrap gifts. I think it looks incredible, but ultimately decided that unless you're giving it to someone crafty who will reuse the fabric, it's too wasteful once you run out your scrap fabric pile. Not to mention too expensive to buy fabric to wrap every gift!

That's just fabric knotted around boxes. I just cut the fabric...didn't even finish any edges or anything!

Anyone have any eco-friendly, upcycled, or reusable gift wrapping ideas? 'Tis the season!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Another Awesome Kids' Book

I'm not sure where we picked it up--I'm sure at a used book sale somewhere, but we have a Thomas the Tank Engine Book titled "The Sad Story of Henry".

It's unbelievable, and I think will hold the record for absolute most odd book. The story is about Henry, a train who gets a beautiful new paint job. So he hides in a tunnel so it won't get wet or dirty. They all try to coax him out to do his job, but he's having none of it. Passengers pushed and pulled, but couldn't move Henry. How do you think the book ends? You won't believe it. Seriously, just guess.

Okay, here's the actual text from the last page of the story:

"They took up the old rails, built a wall in front of him, and cut a new tunnel.

Now Henry can't get out, and he watches the trains rushing through the new tunnel. He is very sad because no one will ever see his lovely green paint with red stripes again.

But I think he deserved it, don't you?"

Really. I'm not making that up. Have you ever heard a worse story for children? I think the author needs to work on some serious anger management issues.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Where I've been, and Change the World Wednesdays

I don't want to stop blogging...there are just other things I seem to be doing more. In fact, as I'm writing this, I'm thinking I should be doing x, y, and z.

But, I definitely don't want to stop blogging. So, what have I been up to? Life. You know how it goes, three kids, running hither and yon, having fun.

I've started writing for my town's Patch site. A weekly cooking column about recipes using local food. So I've been LOVING that.

I've been getting more serious about editing my novel. I'm about half way through a serious read-through/edit, then I'm going to let TK read it so he can be my sounding board about some areas of weakness and areas of potential re-write. And I still have three alternate endings blocked out, so unless I'm planning a choose-you-own-adventure book, I'm going to have to make a decision.

N-man and B-man are finishing up kindergarten, which is exciting and unbelievable. Z-man is almost two, and is enjoying the terrible twos to their fullest. He's very advanced, not even waiting until he turns two. He also has a speech delay, just like big bros did, and we've started down the Early Intervention road again, which has its pros and cons. Tomorrow we have a follow-up ear check to decide if he should get tubes or not.

You see, life. Regular stuff that keeps me laughing and running and smiling.

So that's where I've been. Howdy, y'all!


Most of why I wanted to get back on my blog was to post about Change the World Wednesday. I've written about it many times before, and I'll just say again how much I love the weekly challenges to become a little more environmentally friendly and aware. Here's this week's challenge:

This week, make your coffee or tea at home. Getting coffee/tea out every day not only costs a lot but also generates a lot of waste. Make it at home instead. And don't forget ... both coffee grounds and tea leaves are great in the compost bin.

Or ...

If you don't drink these beverages or always drink them at home, choose one other food or beverage, which you typically buy at either a restaurant or grocery store, and make it yourself at home. And, of course, we'd like to hear all about it!

I wrote about how I broke the coffee habit back in November 2009. Wow, it's surprising that it's been so long! It's still going great. I'd say I get coffee out maybe once or twice a month now, instead of 4 or 5 times a week. Quite a change! And we're still using organic milk (I'd originally given up buying coffee out so we could afford organic milk).

I guess it's been a year and a half, but I hardly think of it anymore. There's very little draw to go out for coffee, unless I'm meeting someone or have really been running around all day without stop. And those are the times I don't feel guilty about treating myself :)

Want to play along? Head over to Reduce Footprints blog!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

My new favorite way to make eggs

We were playing a game with the kids (Quelf Jr--awesome game!) and one of the questions B-man pulled was to name a type of food you have no idea how to make.

He answered "eggs", which seemed to be a good answer as I'm not sure I've ever had him help me make eggs.

N-man looked at us like we were all crazy. "I know how to make eggs," he declared boldly. "Go buy a chicken."

There was a pause while all our brains had to catch up with his...

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Never Let it Be Said I Don't Win Anything

We went yesterday to a Green Living Fair, which was great--really informative about a whole slew of topics.

Anyway, while we were there we bought a few raffle tickets to support the organization. I didn't think much of it...just wanted to help out. Imagine my surprise when we got a phone call to say we'd won one of the prizes! I never win anything! The weekend away, the jewelry...what could it be?

The bacteria to add to your septic tank. Yes, that's right, I won poop-eating bacteria. I know, you all want to be me, right?


Green tip: Styrofoam recycling is pretty rare in curbside recycling (anyone able to recycle styrofoam in their town?). But, look around to see if there are any styrofoam recyclers in your area. For example, in Eastern Massachusetts, ReFoamIt holds styrofoam recycling events. I'd been saving my styrofoam for about 9 months (we try not to buy things with styrofoam, but still, in 9 months we'd filled a few grocery bags).

Friday, April 1, 2011

Thank goodness this one is cleared up!

N-man had a friend over for a play date yesterday. They were playing with lightsabers, and N-man said, "I'm Darth Vader! Who are you?" His friend replied, "Anakin!"

With great exasperation, N-man said, "You can't be Anakin. Anakin and Darth Vader are the same person. Oh, you be Obi Wan."

Could I be prouder? No.

[To explain, there's something weird going on with kids today. They all love Anakin. They think he's one of the good guys, and sadly he seems to be the most recognizable Star Wars character. This is completely unacceptable to me. First of all, Han Solo is the coolest Star Wars character. Duh! Second, no matter what he did in Episodes I - III, Anakin is still Darth Vader! Why is that so hard for these 5 year olds to grasp? Anyway, I'm raising my boys right.]

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Kids will give you away every time

Here's what came home in the kids' backpacks yesterday:

N-man did a writing/drawing assignment about pizza. He said his favorite pizza topping was blue cheese dressing. Yes, you read that right. For readers from my hometown of Buffalo, this might seem slightly eccentric but not totally insane. However, I'm sure to everyone else in the world, this seems completely crazy and kind of disgusting.

(It's not, though. It's super delicious! And my kids are SKINNY. I'd pour blue cheese dressing on all their food if they'd let me, if only it would help them gain some weight!)

Okay, embarrassing to think that N-man's teachers and friends now know his mom lets/encourages him to put salad dressing on his pizza. But it's kind of funny, too.

Then I opened B-man's backpack. He had an open-ended writing assignment where they could choose to write about anything in the world. Here's what he chose:

"My mom was cleaning up, then she said, "It's time to go." I said, "I didn't eat breakfast yet!"

Yeah, I don't remember this day. Now, it's true TK was out of town last week, and things got a little hairy, but I thought I had things under better control that I wasn't starving my children. As I just mentioned above, my kids are ridiculously skinny and I'm kind of psycho about making sure they eat at least five times each day. So I asked B-man what happened when he told me I hadn't given him breakfast, and he said that then I gave him breakfast. I was probably kidding when I said it was time to go to get B-man moving on eating. But now I'm tempted to send a note in to his teacher that says "Oh my gosh, of course I make sure B-man eats breakfast every day! I'd never forget to feed the kids!"

I guess I should just be happy that in B-man's writing, at least I get credit for cleaning, if not cooking! I know from working in elementary schools that kids will give away all the family secrets. It's a lot funnier when it's not my own kids, though :)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

What a chicken!

A few days ago, I told my husband that our CSA farm had just gotten some chickens. I mentioned it to let him know that I was going to be heading over there to buy some eggs.

But every time I mention chickens or eggs, my husband gets a crazy, fearful look in his eyes. I know why. He thinks that this time, I'm going to say I want to raise chickens in the backyard.

You know what? I kind of do. Shhh, don't tell TK. I'll break it to him gently. He's kind of a chicken. With three boys, our house is kind of a dude-fest. Maybe next spring I'll add a couple of chicks to the family.

Friday, February 25, 2011

But that's how old he is!

TK got Z-man dressed this morning. When I saw Z-man, I said, "Wow, that shirt is really small!" The arms of the shirt were nearly up to his elbows and it was straining across his tummy. I mean, it was a REALLY small shirt.

"I know," said TK. "But I checked, and it's size 18 months."

I try not to ever complain when TK helps out with the kids, but sometimes I can't help teasing, and this is one of those times. I don't know if it's his overly literal engineering personality, but this is just so TK, to say, "Hmmm, it doesn't look like this shirt fits. However, clothing size=18m, child age=18m, therefore shirt must fit child."

He's so cute! I'm just so tickled!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

N-man's sense of humor

"Mom, mom, I just thought of the funniest joke!"

He could hardly contain himself, cracking up before he could even tell me.

"On Monday, juice fell out of my ears!"

More giggling.

"Do you get it? I said *ON* Monday. Like on top of Monday!"

Tons of laughing ensued.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

2010 Book List

As anyone who looks at my number of posts in 2010 can tell, I was a pretty inconsistent blogger this past year. As a result, I kept forgetting to get online to keep a list of what books I read. Ugh...I hate that I did that as I've really enjoyed having a list of what I've read each year. Just glancing at the lists brings up so many memories of what I was doing while I was reading the book, or ideas I had, or things I felt.

Anyway, I'm sure I've forgotten to list many of the books I've read this year, but by culling through the piles around the house, I've hopefully listed many of them here. As always, my recommended books are in bold.
  • Budding Prospects by TC Boyle (I generally like books by Boyle, and this was no exception. It's about some down-on-their-luck pot growers. Got a little slow in the middle, but still enjoyed it. Not his best, though.)
  • Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (Not at all what I expected, though I guess I didn't know anything about the book except that it was pretty popular. This is a dystopian novel along the lines of Brave New World or the like. Very highly recommended!)
  • Frostbitten (Women of the Otherworld #10) by Kelley Armstrong (Enjoyable. Don't know what to say 10 books into a series...not like I'm going to convince anyone to go pick up this book unless they've read the first nine...)
  • Living with the Dead (Women of the Otherworld #9) by Kelley Armstrong (I'm still enjoying this series, though this particular one seemed a little unfocused, and from too many different POVs.)
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (Obviously a reread for like the 25 time or something. Love this was what I chose to read first on my new kindle (which I'm very much enjoying!)
  • The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood (Swoon! I love Margaret Atwood! Another wonderful story that tells some of the background leading up to Oryx and Crake. I read this book months ago, and am still thinking about it.)
  • Parallel Play by Tim Page (I picked this up because it's a memoir of a man who wasn't diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome until he was an adult. It's not really about Asperger's or autism per se, but of course it colors all his experiences of his childhood (and life). An interesting read.)
  • A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini (for all the wading through thrillers at library book sales, sometimes you stumble upon a perfect condition hard cover book you've been wanting to read for ages. Like this one. Enjoyed it quite a bit!)
  • Busting Vega$ by Ben Mezrich (a non-fiction story, by the same author who wrote Bringing Down the House. There's something about his writing style that absolutely cracks me up. I don't know...overly filled with similes, a forced "thriller" tone, a "my dad is trying to act cool" vibe. I'm not sure what it is, but it doesn't really bother me--it actually makes me enjoy the books more. Silly, I know.)
  • The Ugly Duckling by Iris Johansen (I read a ton of thrillers in 2010, because I got many of my books this year at library used book sales where thrillers are so easy to find. This one was...terrible. The premise is a plain woman is attacked/injured and gets plastic surgery as a result and becomes super beautiful. The actual story is even worse than you'd guess given that premise. I know, hard to believe, right?)
  • Bag of Bones by Stephen King (and here's where I remembered why I can't read too much King. I've read far more of his books this year than in previous years, and I remember now that when you read a lot of King, it all starts to blend together and seem hack-y and silly. I think I am placing myself on a two-King-books-per-year diet).
  • Desperation by Stephen King (pretty good, classic-type King).
  • The Tenth Justice by Brad Meltzer (Never let it be said that I don't give an author a fair shake. While this was better than The Zero Game, I think I just have to face facts that 1) I'm not especially fond of thrillers, and 2) I'm even less fond of legal thrillers. On the upside, I gave this to my mother-in-law for a yankee swap of used books, and she said this was by far the more popular of all the books there!)
  • The Zero Game by Brad Meltzer (In contrast to Stieg Larsson's books, this was all I don't like about thrillers. Boring, unbelievable, and disappointing.)
  • The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson (Fun. Some loose ends...I was sorry to discover the author has died and those loose ends will never be tied up.)
  • The Girl who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson (Also enjoyable. Liked the whole series.)
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (A strong thriller. Slow start, but once it got going, I couldn't put it down. Rarely am I tempted to reread a thriller, but I put this series on the shelf for a future reread.)
  • I Feel Bad About my Neck by Nora Ephron (Collection of short humorous memoir type essays. Some were super, super funny. Some I couldn't relate to at all. Overall, though, it was a fun read.)
  • Hearts in Atlantis by Stephen King (Collection of related short stories. I loved the first story in the book...the rest couldn't quite live up to the start.)
  • Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (Book 3 of The Hunger Games trilogy. Surprisingly dark for a YA series, but so great. Probably the best books I've read this year.)
  • Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (Book 2 of The Hunger Games trilogy. Less of a stand-alone book than the first, but as part of the trilogy, this was really quite wonderful).
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Love, love, love! A must read for, well, everybody :)
  • The Queen's Fool by Philippa Gregory (Well, since I so enjoyed The Other Boleyn Girl, I picked up this book. Which stunk. Badly. Boring, story wasn't engaging, though still a fairly quick read. I don't know if I'd pick up any other books by Gregory.)
  • The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory (Picked this up at a library book sale, and enjoyed it far more than I expected. Quite engaging, really enjoyed it!)
  • Ordinary Resurrections: Children in the Years of Hope by Jonathan Kozol (His books are such a combination of wonderful and so difficult. Even this one, supposedly a more optimistic book, left me angry about the state of education in America.)
  • The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson (I seem to enjoy Bill Bryson's writing. This autobiography of his formative years was pretty hilarious at times and I really enjoyed it. Unlike many autobiographies, I liked that this was a story of his pretty average, run of the mill childhood. His writing and way with a story is what made this so engaging rather than any insanity in his life.)
  • Monday Mourning by Kathy Reichs (I got this at a used book sale, which is why I started a series on book 7. I'm not much for mysteries, but I do enjoy the show Bones. This book wasn't terrible, but it's not making me run out and buy the first 6 books in the series, either.)
  • So Many Books, So Little Time: A Year of Passionate Reading by Sara Nelson (Part memoir of a year in the life of the author, part reading list (of the books she read that year). What did I learn from reading this? That I probably would never be friends with the author, but the book was good enough for me to finish anyway).
  • Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler (an interesting fantasy novel that posits an unhappy 21st century woman being transported back to Jane Austen's England. Not great, but good enough for a quick read.)
  • Going Solo by Roald Dahl (Surprisingly interesting and very readable autobiography, primarily dealing with Mr. Dahl's time as a member of the RAF during WWII)
  • Countryside, Garden & Table: A New England Seasonal Diary by Martha Adams Rubin (A must-read for New England locavores. The book was slightly uneven, but still well worth a read and ahead of its time (published in 1993, long before I'd even heard a peep about eating locally!)
  • A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel (Enjoyed this very much. Some very funny parts!)
  • I Rant, Therefore I Am by Dennis Miller (Impossible to read this without hearing his voice. Some wonderful moments of true humor. Some already too dated. Got it for a buck at a used book sale and it was worth all 100 cents ;)
  • Prozac Nation by Elizabeth Wurtzel (I wish the author the best, but this was a depressing read about depression.)
  • Sizzling Sixteen by Janet Evanovich (Still enjoying this series, though this entry wasn't a standout)
  • The Second Opinion by Michael Palmer (TK picked this up when he was stranded at an airport. It's about what you'd expect of an airport book--fast paced, plenty of suspense, not amazing but good enough to hold your interest while waiting for a plane.)
  • Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (I really enjoy genetics so I was interested in the book from the get go. Finally, something that overcame the curse of Oprah's Book Club--I liked it despite Oprah's vote of approval!)
  • The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd (Meh. Certainly no Secret Life of Bees. Yuck.)
  • A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby (Okay. Not quite as depressing as a book about would-be suicides would suggest.)
  • The Gum Thief by Douglas Coupland (Interesting, but ultimately a letdown. Worth reading once, though)
  • The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood (reread for me. Love love love this book!)
  • Our America by LeAlan Jones and Lloyd Newman (Great 1st person account of life in the projects of Chicago. Somewhat out of date; based on NPR interviews from the early 90's, but still quite compelling.)
  • The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer (Interesting. Not super super great, but enjoyable.)
  • Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman (read the book since I love the movie. Turns out I didn't love the book. My advice, and I feel heretical for suggesting it: stick to the movie!)
  • Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters by Jane Austen and Ben H. Winters (I didn't really like Pride and Prejudices and Zombies so I was hesitant to read this. But I found this at a used book sale for a buck so gave it a try. I'm glad I did...very enjoyable!)
  • Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko (LOVED this! Best fantasy I've read in ages! Beautifully done :)
  • Bullet by Laurell K. Hamilton
  • Flirt by Laurell K. Hamilton (waste of time. I hate myself for reading these.)
  • A Touch of Dead by Charlaine Harris (I'm really enjoying this series. In fact, I reread the entire series when the most recent book came out. This is a collection of short stories...some were pretty uneven. Not highly recommended...stick to the novels!)
  • Dead and Gone by Charlaine Harris
  • Dead in the Family by Charlaine Harris
  • The Last Days of Dogtown by Anita Diamant (This was sometimes a bit slow, and circled around a bit. Some parts were really great and interesting, some didn't go much of anywhere. Still engaging, though. Kind of a mixed bag, though overall, I enjoyed it.)
Totals for the year:
53 books read (okay, that's ridiculously low. I have to think of what books I've left off this list as I know I read far more than a book a week.)

23 books that I would recommend

Favorites of the year: The Hunger Games trilogy, Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood, and Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko. I'd highly recommend the first two to everyone, and the third to fantasy fans!

Least favorites: There were no books this year I hated so much it made me angry, though The Queen's Fool by Philippa Gregory was pretty appalling. The Ugly Duckling by Iris Johansen is another one I feel guilty about re-donating to the library where some other unsuspecting reader may stumble upon it.

Looking back, I feel like I wasted too much time in 2010 reading thrillers and other books I wasn't excited about. I think that's why I can't recall so many of the books I read this year: they were forgettable. I did read a number of really wonderful books, though, some of which were a complete surprise how awesome they were. In 2011, though, I think I'd like to focus a little more on reading books that appeal to me rather than just because it happens to be sitting around.

On that note, any recommendations for me?

Wrapping with fabric

In an effort to reduce paper waste, I decided this winter to try wrapping presents with fabric (called furoshiki).

Here's a picture of my mom's birthday present:

I also wrapped all the teacher gifts for N-man and B-man's teachers/specialists:

I wrapped a number more, but these turned out the best, probably because of perfectly easy box shape of these gifts.

What's my final call?

  • Pretty! Don't these just look so special and interesting?
  • Surprisingly easy! There are plenty of sites online that give directions. I especially liked this one. You can even find youtube videos.
  • No paper waste. Fabric can be easily reused.

  • Fabric is far more expensive than gift wrap.
  • I bought some flannel fabric because 1) it was half-off and 2) it had super-cute kid-friendly designs. I can use it, but it's not nearly as easy as the thin, silkier fabrics. You'll notice none of the pictures here are with flannel wraps!
  • While fabric can be easily reused for crafts (or for wrapping future presents), you never know if the person who receives the gift will end up reusing it, or if it'll just end up in the trash like wrapping paper would have.
So I guess in the end I'm still kind of up in the air about this one. What do you think?