What I’m Into (October 2013)

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I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer today to share What I’m Into this month.

what I’m reading

Right now I’m reading Allegiant (Divergent #3) by Veronica Roth, the third book in the series. I have been obsessively hooked on this dystopian YA novel since the first book but I have to say, so far this book isn’t quite holding up and I don’t seem to be the only one who thinks so. The book is told from the main character, Tris’s point of view as well as Four’s POV but their “voices” are not super different which means that I frequently forget which one is talking until they mention the other, which is disrupting to say the least.

I’ve been downloading oodles of books onto my kindle lately that I’m eager to read soon, which means that I’m not sure when I’ll get to all those pretty books photographed above that are sitting on my nightstand. I also just won copies of The Good Wife and The Good Daughter by Jane Porter which are currently sitting right next to me being all pretty and tempting. I’m kind of in book overload right now and planning to WRITE a book next month (i.e. tomorrow) which may cut down on my reading time even more. Hold me.

what I’m watching

Anyone else watching Reign? I am seriously hooked on that show. I’m not sure how historically accurate it is but the cast is terrific and I frequently find myself wondering if it’s Thursday yet.
Another Thursday fave is Project Runway – it’s an All Star season right now and I’m hoping it will be slightly less freakishly dramatic than the season that just ended. Anyone else still reeling from all of that?
Our DVR is also in a state of seriously begging for mercy – I think it might be time to start cutting down on shows but I really don’t know where I want to begin with that task. I suppose there are worse problems to have.
Also, major shout out to Emma Approved. If you were hooked on The Lizzie Bennet Diaries (or even if you weren’t), you’ll want to check out this web show based off Austen’s Emma. I’m really enjoying it so far.

in my kitchen

My dishwasher is broken. My husband already knows the problem and can fix it (mildly disappointed about that lol) but the part he needs won’t be coming until tomorrow which means I’ve been looking for easy meals with a minimum of dishes. Hello frozen pizza!

Before that happened though, we’d been hooked on the awesome pre-prepped things at the Hy-Vee meat counter. Anyone else discovered their cowgirl chicken? I love to make it when we have company over because it feels like showing off even though all I did was put the pre-dressed chicken breasts on a frying pan and then turned them over halfway through cooking. Hy-Vee makes me feel like I know what I’m doing without making me know what I’m doing. Love that!

I did bake a really delicious bourbon apple pie from scratch this month, using a recipe from A Beautiful Mess and it was amazingly delicious. It was also my first time making pie crust from scratch and I was really thrilled with how it came out and also how easy it was to make. If you are a pie crust beginner like me, I really recommend their recipe.

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How adorable are these princess dress up aprons from Giggleberry Creations? I went to the fabric store over the weekend so I can make BB some Cinderella, Rapunzel and Tiana aprons. And by, me, I mean my husband.

I want to make this cinnamon swirl coffee bread with chocolate chips immediately.

Also: brown sugar & garlic slow cooker chicken. Seriously.

What are you into lately?

What I'm Into at HopefulLeigh

9 Things I Learned in October

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Tomorrow is Halloween guys. Seriously, wasn’t yesterday like the beginning of October or even September? Where the heck did this month go? October has been crazy – a whirlwind of karate classes, Halloween parties, popcorn selling, dentist appointments, doctors appointments, vet appointments, head colds, hair cuts, and seriously I could go on. I don’t think I had more than ten minutes of spare time all month. So in all that business, I must have learned something. Let’s break it down, shall we?

  1. With Nanowrimo next month, I’ve had writing on the brain a lot this month – I learned a lot of useful tips for writing in this short e-book called Short Story: From First Draft to Final Product by Michael Milton. It’s only $2.99 on the kindle so if you are looking for some good writing tips, I highly recommend it!
  2. I learned that when you think your schedule is too full and that you couldn’t possibly fit more in, you will eat those words and you’ll find the room for things that really matter. This month I turned our calendar into Mary Poppins purse – I just buckled down and made everything fit, coat rack and all!
  3. I learned how to make a pie crust from scratch! I really loved how this crust (and the bourbon apple pie inside of it) came out. I’m planning to make it again for Thanksgiving but with vanilla instead of bourbon because I was told that I can only have so many boozy dishes at a Thanksgiving dinner before the kids will start to protest. lol
  4. I learned that my kids’ karate school raised a total of $12,341.20 in donations with the help of UW Carbone Cancer Center and Forward Lymphoma toward researching Cutaneous T-Cell Lymphoma!
  5. In much sadder but semi related news, we learned that my son’s amazing amazing 2nd grade teacher has cancer. She is currently undergoing treatment and STILL teaching because did I mention she is amazing? I will be walking around with permanently crossed fingers and toes hoping that she is able to overcome this.
  6. thesecondcomingI have learned that almost ten years later, I still find myself reciting The Second Coming by Yeats when I get really tired. I had to memorize it in college for a final exam and I can still remember all the places where my friends and I would add extra emphasis and laughter as we stayed up ALL night before our finals to memorize it, writing the lines over and over until my fingers were beyond cramped and I had to hold my hand holding the pencil while writing and then pry the pencil out of said hand afterwards.  Lesson learned: Try studying for major exams more than one day in advance. Also, twenty centuries of stony sleep were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle…
  7. I learned that I might be an obsessive, creepy lady… in relation to the types of books I read anyway! What kind of reader are you? I went on and took the other quizzes that the above link mentions and also found myself to be a cross-under, bookophile, sleepy bedtime delayed onset reader #1… Clearly it’s complicated.
  8. I learned SO much about portrait photography this month after taking a class on the subject. Things like using a shallow depth of field, i.e. large aperture (small number) to create a nice blurred background. I also learned that if you shoot from a lower angle that it can make the subject look thinner!
  9. And just this morning I learned that my dishwasher is broken! My house really likes to keep me on my toes, apparently. Hopefully my husband will learn something new about fixing dishwashers because our budget would really prefer that we did not buy a new one right now.

What have you learned this month? I’m linking up with Emily at Chatting At the Sky if you’d like to play along, too!

Going for gold: Promotion Day!

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This weekend was crazy busy with lots of projects and errands and laundry – and it all started with Promotion Day at the kids’ karate school. All the kids eligible for promotion all advance on the same day – it’s like a big class where all the kids show off everything they have learned in the last two months and you are encouraged to bring family and take lots of pictures.

You know I don’t need any encouragement to take lots of pictures!

The kids were very excited and MM in particular worked harder than he’s ever worked. I was so proud of both of them and all they’ve learned in just one short month! They showed off their various kicks and punches, blocks and group exercises, push ups, popcorn crunches and more. They showed what they’ve learned to do if being approached by a bully or a stranger – they have learned a lot of useful things that will translate to far more than just basic self defense moves.

Both kids advanced to a gold belt this month – BB’s is a white belt with a gold stripe and MM’s is a gold belt with a white stripe – each indicating their age groups. Both were incredibly proud of themselves and worked very hard to get them!

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Getting to know: BB, age 4

BB BB is four years old. If you ask her what she wants to be when she grows up, she will tell you quite plainly: princess. I don’t think she’s joking or naive about this either. If any little girl were going to grow up to be a princess, it would be my daughter. If any little girl could achieve her wildest dreams, it would be her. She is stubborn, determined, charming, funny, intelligent and frankly, beautiful.

When she’s not loving all things pink and princess, she is a free spirited wild child who is never afraid to get her hands dirty. She loves karate classes and making fairy gardens out of sticks, stones, leaves and acorns. She loves to dance ballet but has her own opinions about what that means exactly.

She can spell her name but likes to put the letters in random order to make it more interesting. She loves to read books but cannot read, but doesn’t seem to realize this fact at all. She flips through the pages of her favorite books and makes up her own stories, telling them with enough conviction that an onlooker might think she actually knows the words.

Her drawings range from rough sketches that almost resemble something to a free form scribble that makes perfect sense in her mind but mostly looks like PINK or squiggle. She will tell you about the drawing at great length if you ask.

One of her favorite things to do is repeat her brother verbatim. She wants to do everything he is doing and loves to mimic him. If he asks to have a cookie, she will ask to have a cookie even if I just told her brother no. If he asks what is for dinner, she will ask what is for dinner, even if I just answered him right in front of her. If his favorite color is blue, her favorite color is blue, except that it’s really pink.

She pretty much has given up naps but I don’t think she’s really ready to which means that most days she is exhausted and often pretty cranky, too. Sometimes she falls asleep on the floor an hour before dinner time because ohmygodisshetired.

She loves pretty skirts and accessories and head bands and new bags. She always notices if I am wearing a new outfit or got my hair cut and her favorite thing to wear is whatever is the most new. She is not afraid to mix patterns and loves colorful outfits. She says things like “Mommy, you look marvelous!” and gives the biggest hugs and kisses, whether you want them or not. But usually we do!

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BB is precocious, unpredictable, silly, sweet, stubborn, determined and fantastic. She is undefinable and fiercely independent. She makes her own rules and breaks them, too, just because she can.

Getting to know: MM, age 7 1/2

MMMM is seven and a half. He loves to act out legendary feats of adventure in which he is Doctor Who and we are all his companions – he will gladly take you on an imaginary tour of his Tardis, showing off the swimming pool and library and anything else you can think of. His favorite sound is the Tardis about to take off (you know, with the parking break on) and if he could wish for anything it would be that Doctor Who was real.

He loves hot dogs and pepperoni pizza, watches Wild Kratts and Marvels Avengers Assemble and absolutely loves meeting new people. Nothing thrills him more than playing with young toddlers and making people smile.

He is the kind of kid who pretty much loves everything and tends to think everyone is terrific. He always wants to know what’s coming next. Like his mother, he’s always craning his neck to see what’s coming around the bend – what’s for dinner, what are we doing tomorrow, is it Christmas yet, can we watch one more show?

MMHe is smitten with karate classes and works really hard to focus in class and master the moves, but you can tell it’s reaaaaallllly hard for him to hold that focus when he’s surrounded by all those kids. He’s motivated to compete with his kid sister and classmates and to make his teacher and parents proud, and although he thinks all the karate moves are awesome, he doesn’t have a violent bone in his body.

He is an avid reader and can spend hours curled up with a book but he’s terrible at telling time so if you ask him how many minutes are between 5:51 and 6:24 he might answer something like 137 and have honestly no idea why that would be wrong. He can read small chapter books but really loves picture books – the more pictures the better in his opinion.

He loves to draw and color with his sister and create “projects” – anytime he can use scissors and glue and he is a happy camper. He is fascinated by how things work and grow and loves to learn about gardens and bugs and science and nature.

He is a really, genuinely good, sweet and clever kid. He tries very hard to make the people around him happy and brightens every room he steps into with his smile. He is charismatic and charming, intelligent and silly, good natured and hard working. He makes his momma very proud.

Nightstand: October 2013

What's on your nightstand?It was downright COLD when I took my daughter to the bus stop this morning (MM is home sick). Frost covered car windshields, leaves covered the sidewalks and lawns and a winter jacket covered my four year old. It’s THAT time of year.

With only another week and a half or so of October, it’s time to write about what’s on my nightstand with the ladies at 5 Minutes For Books. The premise is simple for this one: Write about what you are reading and what you’ve read recently and / or plan to read next. You can even include a picture of your nightstand. Here’s mine:

my nightstand

I had just cleared it all off and put everything back on nicely after buying a new lamp (<3) which was small enough to allow me to finally put the little bookhouse that my husband built for me on as well. So above you can see some of the books I’m planning to read next:

Black Heels to Tractor Wheels: A Love Story by Ree Drummond – The infamous Pioneer Woman, one of my favorite bloggers, shares her real-life storybook romance, set on a historic Oklahoma cattle ranch.

The Last Word by Lisa Lutz – the latest in a story about a zany family of private detectives – “Isabel Spellman is used to being followed, extorted, and questioned—all occupational hazards of working at her family’s firm, Spellman Investigations. Her little sister, Rae, once tailed Izzy for weeks on end to discover the identity of her boyfriend. Her mother, Olivia, once blackmailed Izzy with photographic evidence of Prom Night 1994. It seemed that the Spellmans would lay off after Izzy was fired for breaching client confidentiality, but then Izzy avenged her dismissal by staging a hostile takeover of the company. She should have known better than to think she could put such shenanigans behind her.”

Bitter is the New Black by Jen Lancaster – I started this one a couple months ago, set it down and keep meaning to pick it back up: “This is the story of how a haughty former sorority girl went from having a household income of almost a quarter-million dollars to being evicted from a ghetto apartment… It’s a modern Greek tragedy, as defined by Roger Dunkle in The Classical Origins of Western Culture: a story in which “the central character, called a tragic protagonist or hero, suffers some serious misfortune which is not accidental and therefore meaningless, but is significant in that the misfortune is logically connected.””

The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory – “Katherine of Aragon. Known to history as the Queen who was pushed off her throne by Anne Boleyn, here is a Katherine the world has forgotten: the enchanting princess that all England loved. First married to Henry VIII’s older brother, Arthur, Katherine’s passion turns their arranged marriage into a love match; but when Arthur dies, the merciless English court and her ambitious parents — the crusading King and Queen of Spain — have to find a new role for the widow. Ultimately, it is Katherine herself who takes control of her own life by telling the most audacious lie in English history, leading her to the very pinnacle of power in England.”

Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde (not the other one) – “Part social satire, part romance, part revolutionary thriller, Shades of Grey tells of a battle against overwhelming odds. In a society where the ability to see the higher end of the color spectrum denotes a better social standing, Eddie Russet belongs to the low-level House of Red and can see his own color—but no other. The sky, the grass, and everything in between are all just shades of grey, and must be colorized by artificial means.”

Wish You Were Eyre by Heather Vogel Frederick – #6 in a series : “It’s a dream come true for Megan, who’s jet-setting to Paris for Fashion Week with Gigi. Meanwhile, back in Concord, Mrs. Wong decides to run for mayor, so Emma and Stewart team up to make her campaign a success. Jess and Cassidy are also hoping for victories, Jess in the a cappella finals with the MadriGals and Cassidy in the national hockey championships with her teammates. In the midst of it all, the girls—along with their Wyoming pen pals, who drop in for a visit over Spring Break—dive into Charlotte Bronte’s classic Jane Eyre. Some real life romance follows, as Becca may have found a Mr. Rochester of her own.”

Betsy Tacy and Tib and Betsy and Tacy Go Over the Big Hill by Maud Hart Lovelace – I read the first one to my son awhile back and keep meaning to read more in the series. These are books 2 and 3.

Now for the real kicker. I probably won’t read any of these next. November is Nanowrimo and I am not sure how much reading I’ll get done so I plan to focus first on our November / December book club pick, Life After Life by Kate Atkinson:

“On a cold and snowy night in 1910, Ursula Todd is born, the third child of a wealthy English banker and his wife. Sadly, she dies before she can draw her first breath. On that same cold and snowy night, Ursula Todd is born, lets out a lusty wail, and embarks upon a life that will be, to say the least, unusual. For as she grows, she also dies, repeatedly, in any number of ways. Clearly history (and Kate Atkinson) have plans for her: In Ursula rests nothing less than the fate of civilization.”

After I finish that, if time permits, I’ll get to some of the books mentioned above. Otherwise, they’ll have to wait for December.

So what did I read this month and what am I reading right now?

This month I read:

  1. somedaysomedaymaybeSomeday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham (October Book Club Pick) – Finished October 8, 2013 – I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book, but I love Lauren Graham and the plot sounded fun. It was even better than I was expecting, honestly. Graham’s main character, Franny, is kooky and flawed and easy to relate to and she does a good job fleshing out her characters to make them seem realistic. I loved all the 90′s era references and Graham did a great job with tying themes together in the book. She follows a somewhat stereotypical formula but pokes fun at the formula while doing so. Add to this a little love story that has you rooting for a happy ending and a fun glimpse into the world of acting. I really enjoyed it and towards the second half just absolutely could not put it down. – full review
  2. My Lucky Life in and Out of Show Business by Dick Van Dyke – Finished October 13, 2013 – Although Van Dyke is probably one of the greatest actors of all time, he is not one of the greatest writers. He’s very good, but not great. The book flits around from topic to topic and often doesn’t get to the meat of any stories – largely because he chose from the beginning to not write any salacious “gossip”. I applaud him for that but unfortunately conflict is what makes a story interesting usually so although he did his best, a lot of the stories felt a little flat. Like “Once upon a time this amazing thing happened and then this less amazing thing happened, but I’m not going to tell you about it. The End.” Overall… I liked it enough to finish it, but I did not love it enough to heartily recommend it.

Right now I’m reading Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger since it was mentioned so often our book club pick, Someday, Someday, Maybe (the main character is named after Franny from the Salinger book).

“The short story, “Franny”, takes place in an unnamed college town and tells the tale of an undergraduate who is becoming disenchanted with the selfishness and inauthenticity she perceives all around her.

The novella, Zooey, is named for Zooey Glass, the second-youngest member of the Glass family. As his younger sister, Franny, suffers a spiritual and existential breakdown in her parents’ Manhattan living room – leaving Bessie, her mother, deeply concerned – Zooey comes to her aid, offering what he thinks is brotherly love, understanding, and words of sage advice.”

I thought it might be useful to have read both books and Franny and Zooey is very short so it isn’t much of an undertaking. It’s definitely not a favorite of mine so far, but it is interesting so I’m glad I took the time to read it.

So what are you reading?

And will you be attempting Nanowrimo this year? If so, you can friend me here!

Have I mentioned?

I have pictures and stories piling up faster than I can blog about them lately, to the point where I’ve gone full on nerdy and started folders on my computer with pictures and collages of things I still need to blog about. Here are some of the miscellaneous things that I want to tell you about before I forget (again):

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We went to a birthday party like a month ago for a good friend and it was dubbed a Super Hero / Costume Party so all the kids wore their best super hero costumes (or some facsimile there of) and then bounced and giggled and devoured cake and ice cream together.

It shouldn’t surprise you to learn that Doctor Who is my son’s favorite super hero. He’s my favorite super hero, too. Amazingly, he was the only one at the party wearing a suit and tie. This is our take on the 10th Doctor, and possibly my favorite (I’m always torn between 9 and 10) – it’s also a sneak preview of his Halloween costume this year (Long time readers may remember he was the 11th Doctor last year). I’m kind of madly in love with his costume this year and you haven’t even seen the best part yet so stay tuned for THAT.

Also bonus points if you understand the 3D glasses reference.

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BB’s favorite super hero? Obviously a princess. She went with Cinderella. Unsurprisingly, she was not the only princess in attendance that afternoon. I love the bottom right pic in the collage above – Future Mean Girls Table?

BB’s super hero powers include: Her Super Smize, legendary Power Pouting, the ability to wrap her opponents around her tiny fingers with just one smile and if all else fails, she does know karate.

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The days and nights are getting colder and we’re trying to enjoy the outdoors as much as possible, while we can. We pulled out the fire pit the other weekend for possibly the last time this year and grilled some hot dogs / roasted marshmallows for dinner and sat around the fire a bit, enjoying the warmth. I still had to wear a sweater and jacket and drink a warm beverage. I guess that means summer is definitely over, huh?

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I finally got my hair cut again – at least it felt like “finally” for me. I think I last cut it around Mothers Day so October doesn’t seem like a hugely long time (to me) but I’d been wearing my hair in a lazy pony tail for weeks straight and was just done with it and my husband very graciously told me I was silly not to just go get it cut already. He’s a keeper.

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Cub scouts has been going pretty good so far this fall. MM is doing well as a Wolf Scout this year and it’s nice to feel like we mostly know what we are doing this year and understand how the world of cub scouting works, unlike last year when I just felt completely out of the loop. I decided to help out with the newsletter and website and I think that getting involved made a big difference in feeling more comfortable and informed.

At our last pack meeting the kids got to tour a fire truck and learn about fire safety. Guess which part they liked the best?

So this doesn’t need to be one sided. What’s new in your life? Let’s catch up in the comments section!

Eco Friendly Craft Ideas: Make your own upcycled puzzles!

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Here’s an easy project for a cold, rainy afternoon. Kids are bored beyond belief and need a new distraction? Pull out a piece of cardboard from your recycling with an interesting picture and cut it into a jigsaw puzzle. We used the box from a frozen pizza.

You could do this with a cereal box, the box a new toy comes in, frozen pizza boxes, etc. Sky’s the limit here really – and you can make the puzzle as easy or as complex as you want to suit your kiddos needs. If they lose a piece (or twelve) you won’t really care because it didn’t cost you anything more than time!

What simple rainy day activities are your favorite?