Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Book fifty-two: The Big Tiny: A Built-It-Myself Memoir by Dee Williams

I DID IT! This makes book 52, which means I have officially hit my goal for the year. Woot! And woohoo!

Williams' memoir explains the life event that became the catalyst she needed to retool her life - she got rid of her things, sold her house, and built her own tiny house to live in. Her life has been the better for it.

I am fascinated by the concept of micro-living. If I could figure out a way to live that way and still have enough space for my books, husband, kid, cat, and baking supplies, I just might go for it.

Williams is honest and funny without any offensive holier-than-thou judgments on people who don't follow in her footsteps. She's also inspiring. She wasn't an expert contractor, carpenter, electrician, and plumber. But she was an avid reader and know both what and how to research. I would really love to do a project like this with Hen someday. I think it would be amazing to spend a summer or two or three designing, building, and occasionally living in one of these tiny homes. Like I said earlier, I just need to figure out a design that'll fit all my stuff (or a good portion of it anyway).

52 down - I'm done!*

*(But I'm going to keep on going because I've got the third book in that trilogy I need to finish. And I still haven't ready that J.K. Rowling book. And I picked up a bunch of books at Powell's the other day, including another José Saramago (Blindness, Seeing, etc.) book. So many books, so little time.)

Monday, October 20, 2014

Hen is SEVEN!

Holy schnikes! The boy is seven years old. Seven. 7. 1-2-3-4-5-6…7! That's 2558 days old.

Hen is seven and has decided he wants to be a botanist when he grows up. He is fascinated by carnivorous plants. He loves playing with electrical circuits to create things that light up, detect motion, and fly. He is clever and funny and stubborn as I'll get out. He is also a sensitive boy. He rides a 20" bike now. It has hand brakes and gears. He loves his cat, and recently bought a fish he named Red Reed. He is slowly learning to read but would rather be outside playing and running and jumping, although he will lie still to hear a story any day of the week and twice on Sunday.

This year's theme - Reptiles. We hired the most excellent World Famous Mr. Lizard's Mobile Zoo (a.k.a. Brett) to come and share with us all his amazing creatures. Per Hen's request, I ordered a tasty chocolate cake with buttercream frosting and chocolate buttercream filling that the bakery crew did a bang up job decorating using Josh Cleland's illustration of a chameleon with a party hat (with permission). I had a ton of fun putting together the party favors. We decorated with a lot of help from the Silhouette (paper cutting machine). And Hen helped me put together the menu: Lizardade, Chocolate Chameleocake, BBQ Gator Chips, Carrot Cut Snakes hidden in broccoli bushes, and Soft Rose Apple Turtle Shells.

Day of the party - The guests arrive and the volume increases tenfold. The kids start to play and Hen shows off his Venus Fly Trap plants and new fish, Red Reed. When Mr. Lizard called to say he was caught in traffic and would be a little late, we had an impromptu Shrinky Dink craft session. Thank goodness for Google images because I have zero artistic ability but can trace like nobody's business. The kids made requests, I quickly traced a design for each of them, and, voilà, they were kept busy while we waited. Mr. Lizard showed up just as the kids were wrapping up their coloring.

The mobile zoo was awesome. The kids seemed to enjoy the low pressure attitude of Mr. Lizard. He offered the kids a chance but didn't try to persuade any of them to touch the animals, which was a good thing as Mia and Ariel were more than happy to just sit back and observe for most of the hour. All of the kids were gentle and careful and polite and simply wonderful. We got to see so many cool animals, starting with Francois the frog and ending with Attaché the Columbia Red Tail boa constrictor. I don't believe the kids were at all troubled that on this particular reptile-laden day they got to see two amphibians. They also got to hold, but not pet, Toupée the Chilean rose hair Tarantula. They had the opportunity to wear at least one snake (Armani), see a gigantic Pixie frog (poor Pickle couldn't come out the because he, uh, had an accident). And, the big one of the day, they got to see a huge turtle poop, not on my floor, thank goodness. Much fun was had by all.

We ended the day with snacks and cake, presents, distributing of party favor boxes, and many, many thank yous. I wish birthdays came more often because I sure enjoy planning them for the kid.

Of course, there were pictures...

Hen begrudgingly helped with the food signs. He did a great job, didn't he?

Beaverton Bakery creates the perfect birthday chameleon cake with help from local artist Josh Cleland.

Shrinky Dinks save the party!

Hen shows Mr. Lizard his chameleon goggles.

Introducting Francois the frog.

Hen and Armani

Mr. Lizard and the kids impersonating frilled lizards.

If I'm not mistaken, Attaché weighs more than Hen.

Sit, kids, sit.

Kielbasa the Blue-Tongued Skink and a bunch of kids now wanting blue tongues, too.

Happy birthday, Hen!

Click here to view the full set on Flickr.

Book fifty-one: The Runaway King by Jennifer A. Nielsen

The sequel to The False Prince does not disappoint. It was another fun read in a long list of those this year. I already have the last book of the trilogy in my greedy reading-ready hands.

Jaron's rule is questioned by the regents who are ready to replace him with a steward until he is of age to lead his country. Carthya is being threatened by pirates. Jaron's bride-to-be is fast friends with a man Jaron despises. What's a young king to do? Go and meet the threat head on, take matters in his own hands to solve the problem before the regents can vote in the steward who is likely to do more damage than good.

51 down plus 1 to go.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Reptile party favors

The party favors are done! I just need to box them up and they'll be ready to distribute to the kiddos on Sunday. I love finding or making party favors. At the Scholastic book sale earlier this year I bought several copies of Nic Bishops Level 2 Reader Lizards book, I knitted snake scarves with bright variegated colors, and Hen and I made soaps with various reptile toys trapped inside. Once the kids use up all the soap, they'll have little crocodiles, turtles or lizards to play with.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Projects: Toys in soap

Hen and I became soap makers after deciding to have soap as party favors for Hen's upcoming party. Since it is a relatively simple process that doesn't involve working with lye - thanks, glycerin melt-and-pour soap base - Hen was very eager to assist. He actually did most of the work with me micro-managing the production line to ensure the melted soap went where it was supposed to go and not on my floor. To keep our soap on theme we bought small plastic reptiles from Schleich to add so once the soap is gone the kids will have a toy to play with.

I'm documenting the process so we know what to do should we ever want to make more soap, which we probably will since Christmas is coming and I'm becoming a huge fan of homemade gifts that Hen can make for family members.
Cut up the melt and pour soap base.

Put your small pieces in a microwave safe container, unless you're using a double boiler. 

Heat the soap base for 30 seconds, stir, heat for 10 seconds, stir, and continue to heat 10 seconds at a time until it is all melted. Add scents and coloring if using now.

Pour melted scented glycerin into soap molds. If using toys, add them in now. If you make layers, squirt the hardened layer with isopropyl alcohol before continuing on with the additional layer(s). This helps keep the soap from separating between layers later on.

Wait a few hours for the soap to harden and pop soap out of the mold. Do not place them in the fridge to harden faster.

Note: We bought all of our materials for soap making at Michaels for around $20.

Friday, October 10, 2014

For the record

I only had one glass of wine from the bottle that now sits empty on the counter in the kitchen. Hen is asleep, and even if he wasn't, he's far too young to drink wine. Beauts has been dead for months. So, one can only conclude the man of the house drank the rest of it. Drat.

Kiyokawa Orchards means bringing home nearly 50 pounds of apples

Since Hen had the day off from school, we took a drive out to Hood River to pick apples. Kiyokawa Orchards is the place we typically go for apples and this year they did not disappoint. A couple of the varieties we picked are found in the stores nearly year round but since they also make really good applesauce, we got them because, hey, they're still local, right? Here's what we brought home and what I'll likely do with each kind:

  1. Jonagold - applesauce
  2. Golden Delicious - applesauce
  3. Empire - applesauce
  4. Cox Orange Pippin - pie
  5. Newton Pippin - pie
  6. Mountain Rose - small batch of applesauce (the inside is pink!)
  7. Crimson Crisp - eat
  8. Liberty - eat
  9. Tsugaru - eat
We also picked up pears, two plums, and red potatoes. Sadly, they were out of freshly made apple cider. Guess we'll have to take another trip out there later this fall. 

Got apples?

Hen enjoying a mountain rose apple while amongst the pumpkins. 

The view from below.

A Judith Viorst inspired poem by one Henry Finn

If I Were in Charge of the World
by Henry Finn

If I were in charge of the world
I'd cancel bedtime,
Tiny ants getting into your house,
Saying "cheese" when someone takes your picture, and also the
Stink from a stink bug.

If I were in charge of the world
You wouldn't have slow - no one would ever call you Slo Mo again,
Every plant would grow,
No one would ever get sick, and 
You could use mind control to build LEGOs into something you want.

If I were in charge of the world
Gumballs would be fruit,
Candy would be vegetables,
Dirtying your bedroom would make it tidy, and
Thorns would not be pokey.

If I were in charge of the world
I'd write a secret language, and
Have veto power over my parents, and
I'd get to play in the hall.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Book fifty: Charles and Emma: Darwin's Leap of Faith by Deborah Heiligman

This story was so much fun to read. We all know Charles Darwin. We all know the brilliance of his scientific mind. We all know his natural selection theory of how species evolved. We all know those things about the man, but this story offers you a look into Charles Darwin the husband and father. What a wonderful life he gave his wife and children. After he came to the conclusion, with the aid of a pros and cons list, that marriage was what he wanted.

Charles Darwin married his cousin, Emma. Meant for each other seems cliché but these two people really were meant for each other. She was steady, independent, charming, and provided him with the time and space he needed to continue his work. He was observant, attentive (even when not working), appreciative, and loving. They were both patient parents and both lacked the will to be true disciplinarians. Emma is known to have bribed the children to behave at times. (Who hasn't, am I right?)

They had a beautiful life but it wasn't without its heartache. Perhaps most interesting was how Charles and Emma were able to be overlook their obvious differences in regards to faith. For Charles, the more he studied the more his disbelief in a God grew. For Emma, who lost her sister at a young age, believing was a way to ensure they would meet again in the afterlife.

50 down plus 2 to go.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014


A few weeks ago I learned that a friend's husband was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. He's 37. And has a wife. And a son.

My heart hurts every time I think of them, which I find myself doing a lot since hearing the news.

Please help if you can.