What I’m into Lately: April 2014

croissant and coffee

April has not been the funnest month ever in spite of a few fantastic bright spots. Like, on the one hand, my aunt came to visit us for a few days and we had an amazing time showing her around town. On the other hand, the house keeps trying to fall apart. My son turned eight this month and my dog had new mystery ailments. BB made huge strides in potty training but still throws temper tantrums over the most Four Year Old things daily.

On the one hand, I took the kids to the zoo during spring break and the weather was gloriously beautiful. On the other hand, I think that might have been the only gloriously beautiful day this month. I’m being near sighted with that statement and I know it but we’ve had a few too many consecutive days of gloomy, rainy, windy, hail storms putting holes in my house kinda days. So I’m a little over it, you know?

Anyway, before I consciously uncouple with the month of April, let’s talk about what I’m into lately. I’m linking up with the lovely Leigh Kramer today to share all the best of books, music, movies, tv and life that April has had to offer in between hail storms.

APRIL READING

This month began with a lot of me reading books and then not finishing them – so far this is the one lone book I read to completion this month:

eleanor and park by rainbow rowellEleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell – Finished April 24, 2014 – I think it’s safe to say that Rainbow Rowell is becoming a new favorite author of mine. This book sucked me into the story and its characters in all the same ways that Fangirl did. I found myself anxiously waiting to continue reading the story during the day, as though Eleanor and Park might do something drastic or need me there badly during my non-reading hours and it would ruin everything. And much like Fangirl, I found myself eventually just sitting down and ignoring everything for a few hours so that I could finish it – and then being sort of sad it was over, because now what? – full review –

Right now I’m reading (and looooooving) A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle. Like, seriously, where has this book been all my life and also did Madeline L’Engle invent sliding doors? This book has me asking a lot of questions and thoroughly enjoying this sort of coming of age / science fiction / fantasy / social satire conglomeration. Truly fantastic and I’m already planning to buy the entire serious because YES.

APRIL WATCHING

TV

For the most part April has been a big long Veronica Mars marathon. My husband and I have made it through to Season Three of our “It’s been too long, let’s rewatch the series before we see the movie” mission and we’re just as hooked as ever. Luckily my memory is terrible so I only remember half of the plot twists as they come up and the relationship foils don’t feel like one big spoiler alert. I’m very impatient to see the movie and find out what happens to everyone.

I’ve also been really enjoying American Idol still. My two favorites: Alex and Jena are still in the competition so I’m pretty darn pleased and I’ve been enjoying all their music week to week – and the lack of drama at the judges table continues to make me a very happy fangirl.

MOVIES

I made my husband watch 12 Monkeys with me because he’s never seen it and um Brad Pitt and Bruce Willis. Seriously. He says he enjoyed it but that it was incredibly cheesy and he wants to watch Fight Club now. He’s not entirely wrong but I still consider it basically a classic.

We also watched Harriet the Spy with the kids. MM laughed uproariously throughout the whole movie and Dan and I reminisced a lot. It is so different to watch the movie as a parent than as a kid and I couldn’t get over how young all the actors were.

We rented the newest Thor movie a few weeks ago and of course it was awesome and sets you up perfectly for a second movie. We also rented The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and it was… just wow. I wanted to travel EVERYWHERE even more than usual after seeing it. Such a beautiful movie, I’m so glad we finally watched it.

BROWSING

This Huff Post article: I’m Done Making My Kid’s Childhood Magical was probably the best thing I read online this month. It sorta speaks to all the little thoughts and feelings I’ve been having for awhile now and I have tried to think back on it throughout the month when mothering gets overwhelming.

DSC_6215I dyed Easter Eggs using this easy red cabbage dye to make blue eggs recommended by Design Mom and was really impressed with the results. We used two different homemade dyes this year but the red cabbage eggs were my favorite.

Pro tip: Remember to refrigerate your dyed and hard boiled eggs before leaving the house for 3 hours or you won’t be able to keep all the pretties.

Did you read about how a teen discovered that changing their font could save the government millions? And it’s my favorite font!

I’m not really into the news that Craig Ferguson is leaving the Late Late Show but I sure am thinking about it a lot. I’ve been really pleased with some of the newcomers to the late night talk shows – Colbert taking over for Letterman is fantastic news for me and I’ve been enjoying Seth Meyers as well but thinking about late nights without my favorite grumpy Scottish host is not fun at all. I wonder what the odds are that they have another UK Late Night Rebel in their pocket because I’m really going to miss the accent and the antics.

Speaking of UK Antics:

That’s about it for this month though I’m sure I’m forgetting something majorly important.

Tell me, what are you into lately?

I made her an offer she couldn’t refuse.

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Last week BB and I were at the grocery store and she spotted the most adorable handbag for sale. Yes our grocery store randomly had children’s handbags for sale – it was in their little seasonal / toys / miscellaneous / things your child is about to beg you for aisle and I almost said no when she asked if she could have it but then I noticed: A ) It was only five dollars and then considered B ) This could make an excellent bribe.

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I don’t know how my brain sprung onto this idea so quickly but I’m so glad I did. See, we’ve been slooooooowwwwwwwwwlllllllllly potty training BB for a few years now and though I’m trying my best not to stress out over how long it’s taking because I already did that with Child A and it didn’t make a lick of difference in the long run, still Child B has been dragging her heels and even though I know she is 100% capable of being potty trained, she lacked all motivation to actually commit to the process. Emphasis on the past tense.

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I told her quite plainly that I would love to get the purse for her but that she wouldn’t be able to use it until she was potty trained because it wasn’t big enough to carry diapers and wipes (she’s been carrying a small back pack / diaper bag for a couple of years now rather than me carrying everything – a mostly fantastic idea btw). I told her if she could stay dry for the rest of the week (just three days!!) that I’d let her have the bag and she could bring it to ballet class on Saturday.

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It totally 100% worked. She was the most proud little girl ever to be able to carry her very own purse just like mommy and she seemed to understand the deal 100%. I told her up front that if she didn’t continue to stay dry going forward that I’d have to take the purse away again and she has been so determined not to let that happen that (knock on wood) she has been dry ever since. Apparently I just needed to find the right method of motivation for her and for my girl that means: ACCESSORIES.

Like mother, like daughter.

 

Going for Gold: Promoting to Level One

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My son just had another karate promotion. They promote roughly every two months so after awhile it’s kinda like ::yawn:: Oh, another one? Except this one really was kind of a big deal because he was graduating from the Kinder Kickers program and moving up to Level One aka The Real Belts.

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Promotion Night is kinda crazy because all the Little Ninjas and Kinder Kickers and all their parents and some grandparents and uncles and second cousins all come together to celebrate their promotion. The room is packed full of relatives taking pictures on cell phones, iPads and big honking cameras like mine.

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The kids show off everything they have learned in the last two months and it’s always really impressive to see what our 4, 5, 6 and 7 year olds are capable of doing. I think every parent / relative in the room was thinking, “Man am I out of shape” as they watched their kids do a gagillion push ups and flying front kicks and extreme horse stances. I know I was.

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Apart from being a weepy proud momma and trying to hide in a slightly less crowded corner somewhere so that my social anxiety doesn’t run kicking and screaming out the door, I’ve got another mission on Promotion Nights. As I told my husband, karate promotion is like my own little Photography Olympics.

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It’s an awesomely fun challenge to catch a picture of your kid flying in midair and have it be mostly in focus and not have random strangers jump in front of the picture. I am getting pretty darn good at this game, too.

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And it distracts me from the wanting to run kicking and screaming out of the door thing which is a nice bonus. This was a pretty successful promotion in terms of picture turnout and Level of Jen’s Social Anxiety. I found the perfect little corner to mostly just focus on MM and getting awesome flying kicking pictures and only had to deal with crowd control when BB wanted to use the bathroom. Hubby helped a lot, so he probably found the night a lot more stressful than I did but he puts up with it like a champ.

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But at the end of the night, our little boy became a Level One Gold Belt and his teacher made an awesome speech about what a big deal it was so I’m pretty sure MM has never been prouder of himself than he was that night.

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And for good reason.

 

Take your kids to work day.

Let’s play a game:

Can you guess what my husband does for a living based off these pictures from “take your kids to work day”?

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No cheating: If you know what hubby does, don’t ruin the fun for everyone else, i.e. my other three readers.

As an aside, Take Your Kids to Work Day should probably just be called “have your spouse drive the kids over to your office to do loosely relevant arts & crafts projects and eat a snack in your company’s lobby.” But I guess that would be too many words for the poster.

In all seriousness, they had a blast and the company did a great job putting everything together – I do really appreciate the lengths the company goes to in making it a family friendly environment.

Okay, ready? What do you think my husband does for a living, based on the photos above or otherwise?

weekend link love: the april 25, 2014 edition

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This week has seriously felt like the song that doesn’t end – weather woes aside (there are always weather woes, no?) my daughter has been … trying my patience, to say the least. It’s been a battle of the wills lately as my four year old and I battle it out over who exactly is in charge around here and I wish I could tell you I was winning. Ages and stages, right?

She gets home from 4k in about half an hour so while I have a few minutes of peace and quiet, let me take a moment to share with you some of the fun stuff I’ve read / seen online this week in between tantrums (hers and mine).

 

Okay here’s a picture of my coffee on Monday (and my son enjoying his last day of spring break) so that we can end this post on a funner note – because coffee makes everything better, right?

20140421_084212Have a great weekend guys!

Book Review: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

eleanor and park by rainbow rowellI just finished reading Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell, she of Fangirl fame (see my review of Fangirl here). Actually she wrote Eleanor & Park first so most people in the know probably know her for this book first and foremost and then consequently also Fangirl. Also I’ve spent way too much time thinking about how to begin this review.

A lot of people before me have emphatically praised this book. After reading Fangirl / basically devouring it whole, I was anxious to read this one, but also a little nervous that it somehow wouldn’t live up to the hype and wouldn’t be the same.

My conclusion after finishing it: It wasn’t the same but it definitely lives up to the hype. “Wasn’t the same” by the way, is a compliment. This book stands firmly on it’s own and doesn’t really beg to be compared to her other books. It’s just as well written with another cast of perfectly imperfect characters for you to root for relentlessly. But it doesn’t feel like a Rainbow Rowell formula where she inserts A + B, adds C and divides by X, you know?

Here’s a quick description of the book courtesy of  goodreads.com:

“Set over the course of one school year in 1986, this is the story of two star-crossed misfits—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love—and just how hard it pulled you under.”

Set in the 80’s and telling a story of two misfit teens who fall reluctantly in love – this book has the ability to make readers nostalgically remember being just like Eleanor or Park once. Unless you are a teenager right now while reading it and then you’ll just go “OMG, me, too Rainbow!” At least where their basic personalities and normal teenage lives are concerned.

Like Fangirl, this book is also more than just a cute little teen love story. These characters are dealing with some serious stuff, most of which I can’t really relate to but emphasized with deeply. Like sometimes when I was not reading because life, dinner, grocery shopping, small needy children, etc. I found myself almost worried about the book – like if I didn’t start reading again soon, lord only knows what might happen to Eleanor while I’m gone. I found myself quickly wrapped up in their story much the same way I was with Fangirl to the point of finally just giving into the urge to sit around reading all day until it was done.

Which means I’m now in bookish withdrawals so send cookies, a mix tape and a good book pronto, kay?

What’s the last great book you read?

Little spring moments.

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The other day we walked outside to go to the store or something and the kids zoned in immediately on something SPECTACULAR.

A FLOWER. The first flower of the spring season, that they had noticed anyway – sitting there almost unnoticed in our front yard. Of course, most grown ups might see this and groan about the start of dandelion season and mutter about their uncanny ability to take over the whole yard. They might grab a shovel and dig that sucker out, roots and all, before it even thinks about spreading seeds. My neighbors had their yard sprayed a few weeks ago to avoid the whole debacle altogether.

And I get it – I’ve seen a yard just completely overcome by dandelions and yeah it’s not pretty. They are invasive little suckers so I will join in and help hubby pull out most of them – but the truth is, most of the time – I’m totally with my kids on this one.

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They may be invasive and have totally no clue about when enough is enough (sound like any shorties in your life?), but if you stop and take a moment to enjoy it, they are tiny little moments of beauty built right into your yard. They don’t ask for much, they don’t ask for anything really. You don’t have to spend long hours tending to them, they will thrive under the harshest conditions. They are tiny little survivors that pop up to remind us: Spring is here. You survived another winter. You did it.

You’ve gotta respect that, you know?

Book Review: Eleanor and Park

fangirlingjen

eleanorandparkI just finished reading Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell, she of Fangirl fame (see my review of Fangirl here). Actually she wrote Eleanor & Park first so most people in the know probably know her for this book first and foremost and then consequently also Fangirl. Also I’ve spent way too much time thinking about how to begin this review.

A lot of people before me have emphatically praised this book. After readingFangirl / basically devouring it whole, I was anxious to read this one, but also a little nervous that it somehow wouldn’t live up to the hype and wouldn’t be the same.

My conclusion after finishing it: It wasn’t the same but it definitely lives up to the hype. “Wasn’t the same” by the way, is a compliment. This book stands firmly on it’s own and doesn’t really beg to be compared to her other books. It’s just as well written with another cast of perfectly imperfect characters for you to root for relentlessly. But it doesn’t feel like a Rainbow Rowell formula where she inserts A + B, adds C and divides by X, you know?

Here’s a quick description of the book courtesy of  goodreads.com:

“Set over the course of one school year in 1986, this is the story of two star-crossed misfits—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love—and just how hard it pulled you under.”

Set in the 80’s and telling a story of two misfit teens who fall reluctantly in love – this book has the ability to make readers nostalgically remember being just like Eleanor or Park once. Unless you are a teenager right now while reading it and then you’ll just go “OMG, me, too Rainbow!” At least where their basic personalities and normal teenage lives are concerned.

Like Fangirl, this book is also more than just a cute little teen love story. These characters are dealing with some serious stuff, most of which I can’t really relate to but emphasized with deeply. Like sometimes when I was not reading because life, dinner, grocery shopping, small needy children, etc. I found myself almost worried about the book – like if I didn’t start reading again soon, lord only knows what might happen to Eleanor while I’m gone. I found myself quickly wrapped up in their story much the same way I was with Fangirl to the point of finally just giving into the urge to sit around reading all day until it was done.

Which means I’m now in bookish withdrawals so send cookies, a mix tape and a good book pronto, kay?

WHAT’S THE LAST GREAT BOOK YOU READ?

This was cross posted at Jen’s personal blog.

My how they’ve grown!

Zoo memories over the years…

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We went to the zoo last week and looking through pictures I realized this is our sixth year of visiting this zoo. Or really sort of the fifth year because you aren’t supposed to include the first year (or this year?) but I’m too lazy to change my graphic that I made before double checking my math and I’m stubborn and stuff. So let’s say six years and ignore the fact that my daughter being four and a half means that the math doesn’t quite add up.

My POINT is that we’ve been going to this amazing little FREE zoo for a long time now and my pictures from each visit are photographic evidence of how much my kids have grown and changed over the years.

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Exhibit A: This is a picture from our first trip to the zoo back in the spring of 2009, just days after moving here. MM is just barely three years old here!

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but he’s a little bit taller now.

monkey-mmIn the spring of 2010 we began a semi-regular practice of taking pictures of MM posing in front of this sign that shows the arm span of different primates so you can go see how you measure up. It’s kind of unreal to me how much longer his arms are compared to 2010 / 2011 and how much taller he’s gotten! Also amazing:

2012-aprilzooHere he is wearing that same jacket in 2012. What???

BB has grown a lot, too.
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I know this doesn’t really give quite the same visual since she’s hiding behind cut out photo op thingies, but just look at how those cheeks have thinned out as she’s gotten older. She’s practically an eye rolling teenager in that last picture (taken last week).

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This was the first year that I got a picture of BB measuring herself against the primates so let’s check back in 4-6 years from now so we can see the progression for her, too, kay? You’ll wait, right?

Okay here are two bonus pictures that don’t really fit in with the other “look how much bigger my kids are getting” collages but I feel compelled to share anyway:2013-junezoo

A cute picture of the kids last year “measuring” each other against the wild cats. It kind of just perfectly sums up my children in one spontaneous photograph.2012-augzoo

This one always makes me think of that book We’re Going on a Bear Hunt (LOVE btw) and I’ve tried to recreate it basically every time we’ve gone to the zoo in the two years since I took this and have been mostly unsuccessful.

Okay so let’s take a poll:

How many years until MM’s arm span is as long as a gibbon (the bottom primate on the pics above)?

How many years until BB’s arms are longer than her brother’s?

Easy Natural Egg Dyes: 2 Ways

2014 natural easter egg dyes

I’ve been fascinated for the past few years with natural egg dyes and love trying new methods out. It’s not quite as exciting for the kids as natural dyes tend to take a long time to get super pretty / vibrant, but then again they are usually pretty content with the plastic eggs filled with candy so I’ve been able to get away with my natural dye experiments for the past few years with little complaint.

This year I stuck to just two dyes – a blue dye made with red cabbage and a reddish dye made with yellow onion skins. Seriously apart from water, a splash of vinegar and a bit of baking soda – those were the only ingredients. Here’s how I made each dye:

Red Cabbage Based Blue Egg Dye

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Ingredients:

  • 1 head of red cabbage
  • water
  • 1 tbsp vinegar
  • baking soda if desired

Directions:

  1. Cut up one head of cabbage and put it in a saucepan.
  2. Add water until cabbage is covered and boil for 20-30 minutes. We boiled for 20 minutes and it was a pretty vibrant blue color so we called it a day.
  3. We chilled our dye overnight mostly because we are lazy and didn’t get back to it that day.
  4. The next day I added a tablespoon of vinegar to the dye. Vinegar tends to lighten the dye so if you want a darker color you can add baking soda to get the color just right.
  5. Add your eggs and refrigerate if hard boiled as they’ll need to soak for a minimum of 30 minutes in the egg dye for a light blue color and up to overnight for a darker blue.

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from lightest to darkest: 30 minutes, a few hours, over night

Yellow Onion Skin Based Red Egg Dye

20140419_161554Ingredients:

  • 4-5 medium yellow onion skins (use the onions sooner than later)
  • water
  • 1 tbsp vinegar
  • baking soda if desired

Directions:

  1. Peel the skins off 4-5 yellow onions and put skins in a sauce pan. Add water until onion skins are covered.
  2. You can EITHER boil your eggs in this mixture for 10 minutes OR boil the mixture for 20-30 minutes and then use the dye to color pre-boiled eggs. We did both and unsurprisingly the eggs we boiled in the mixture did not get as dark as the eggs that were able to sit overnight in the egg dye.
  3. Add vinegar to your dye to help in the dying process. Add baking soda to darken the dye of desired.

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Egg on the left was dyed in the red dye first then the blue dye.

The other four were dyed in the red dye overnight.

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We also attempted a green color by adding one of the eggs boiled in the yellow onion skin dye (which resulted in a yellowish egg) into the blue dye. This was the result – interesting but a bit icky looking?

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Here are two of the blue eggs with the one yellowish egg that we kept from the eggs boiled in the yellow onion skin dye (the others we experimented with).

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Over all, I think I preferred the blue dye made with the red cabbage. 

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How does your family like to decorate Easter eggs?

Got a favorite natural dye recipe I should try?