Thursday, May 31, 2012

Day 150: Embroidery (cleanup)

Time: A couple hours
Listening to: Murder She Wrote

My buddy ol' pal, Bethany, came over last night to craft with me. I'd had this embroidery done for a while now but had to finish it. I usually use brown paper to finish off the back but this time I tried a new technique of using cloth to kind of wrap it up nicely.

Here is a pretty not so exciting picture of it:

I'm pretty happy with how it turned out!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Part 1: Reading List of 2012!

So way back on Day 1 of this blog, I wrote a long explanation of why I read so obsessively. I won’t rehash all of that again but feel free to check it out if you missed it. Instead of doing one big one at the end of the year, I thought I’d split it up a bit…so this is part one of my Reading Extravaganza of 2012!

* indicates a favorite
** indicates a super favorite

1.       Once Upon a River by Bonnie Jo Campbell        Fiction—Coming of Age
 I was intrigued about this book because it is set around the Kalamazoo River which is where my parents live.  I thought it might be like the female version of Huckleberry Finn—how cool would that be? There were parts of this book that I liked but overall it was pretty dark throughout with a too cheery ending for my taste.
2.       **The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan         Fiction/Poetry
Oh I loved this clever little read! Each chapter begins with a word and then what follows is an expert of a love story that gives that word meaning. While the story is particular to one couple, it somehow delves into the universality of love.      I would definitely recommend this read but my one advice is to have a dictionary nearby!
3.       Wildwood by Colin Meloy         Young Adult/Fantasy
This book had every single element that should make for a great adventure story but it just felt like it was trying too hard. It was still a good read but I did feel disappointed a bit by it. The illustrations by Carson Ellis were amazing, though.
4.       The Little Bride by Anna Solomon         Historical Fiction
I really liked the historical significance that this book portrayed—about a young Jewish girl traveling to the West as a mail order bride. But her selfishness made it tough to like her.   Even more so, I found myself getting so frustrated with how she acted. It just felt like this book had a bad mood surrounding it.
5.       Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier         Historical Fiction
This is a story that I’ve been hovering around for several years and finally got around to reading. I was very intrigued by this book as it is a fictional story based around the real Dutch painter, Johannes Vermeer and his famous painting, Girl with a Pearl Earring. It was quite simple in its prose but I was immediately drawn into the story, the household, and the painting.
6.       **The Fault In Our Stars by John Green         Young Adult
This book had me on such a rollercoaster of emotions—either I was bawling or I was laughing. Green has taken two very real kids who are living with the dark cloud of cancer looming above them—and shown a story of love, humor, and grace. Heart wrenching? Yes. But the questions about life, death, and love are so beautiful that it makes up for any smeared mascara. 
7.       It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini     Young Adult
This was an interesting book to read right after The Fault in Our Stars as it dealt with another smart kid who grapples with the bigger questions in life. He is a bit unlikable in his teenage self but at the same time, his struggles with the pressures of life make him very relatable and easy to be sympathetic towards. A very good read about mental illness in ourselves and loved ones.
8.       All is Forgotten, Nothing is Lost by Lan Samantha Chang         Fiction
I was quite intrigued by this story while reading it. It drew me in—but quietly. It was one of those books that I finished but kept thinking about for weeks after. I can’t say it is my favorite, but it definitely is worth reading for any writer/artist/poet.
9.       Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling        Nonfiction/Humor
I think I was on the library’s hold list for this book for roughly….7 months. I was sooo looking forward to this book and for the most part, I was satisfied. The beginning of the book was really good—especially her stories about growing up—but the funnies did start to drift off towards the end.  Still gave me plenty of chuckles, though.  
10.   The Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean         Historical Fiction
This book took me a long time to get into it because it bounces back and forth between the present day story and the story set in Leningrad in ’41. The story of Leningrad during the war is so interesting that I kept getting frustrated when we’d leave the story to go into the present day lives of the characters.   Towards the end of the book, I began to appreciate the jumps a bit more and could see the importance of seeing the present day story, as well as the old. Overall, it is a good read about a story you don’t always hear about.
11.   Hitler’s Youth by Susan Campbell Bartoletti         Historical Nonfiction
I grew up reading a lot of books about World War II and the Holocaust so I was a little suspicious that I had already read all that would be in this book…but I was wrong. This is a really good look at how Hitler understood the power of young people and how he went about manipulating them. A very important read!
12.   Lyrics Alley by Leila Aboulela         Fiction
This story took me a while to get into and I often thought about putting it down and moving on to something else. But I’m glad I stuck with it! As I got more comfortable with her writing rhythm, I started getting to know the characters, their motives, and their culture.
13.   Feeling for Bones by Bethany Pierce        Young Adult Fiction
A thoughtful look about a teenage girl suffering with anorexia as her family crumbles around her.  A good subject but…I wanted more from the book. The writing somehow kept me at a distance the whole time I was reading so it was hard to really connect with it.
14.   Hector and the Secrets of Love by Francois Lelord        Fiction/Philosophy
This was a very fun, light read—all while asking some big questions about the nature of love. Lelord has a very interesting writing style—almost like a children’s story—which makes it seem like a lighter book than it is. My hubby gave me this book for Valentine’s Day—and it proved to be a good find!
15.   Player One by Douglas Coupland         Fiction/Apocalyptic
Douglas Coupland doing what he does best—asking big questions and examining our society as if through a microscope. He addresses a lot of the same issues that concerns him in his previous books but it still was very thought provoking. The book is set immediately after the price of oil sky rockets so the world is amidst chaos. As a big fan of Coupland, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. If you haven’t ever read any of his books…don’t start with this one.
16.   *Jim the Boy by Tony Earley        Historical/Young Adult Fiction
I have to admit…I thought that Jim the Boy was a pretty lame title. And then the cover….woof. But I am so glad that I picked this book up. It is such a beautiful, simple story of a boy growing up in a small town. Quiet scenes fill the book with a strong presence and feel. One of the most surprising reads so far. I liked it so much I bought three copies and gave two away!
17.   The Blind Contessa’s New Machine by Carey Wallace        Historical Fiction
This is based on the true story about the invention of the typewriter.  This book almost feels magical to me—as the main character is a free spirited child who loves the natural world, her freedom, and imagination. As she begins to lose her eyesight, she learns to love and experience the world differently. There are some bothersome qualities of the book but after meeting Carey Wallace and thoroughly enjoying who she is…I can easily overlook them!
18.   Great House by Nicole Krauss      Fiction/Short Stories
This book intrigued me because it all revolves around one desk. Each short story mentions/focuses on the same desk and ultimately all of the stories do intersect at the end.  I really wanted to love this book because I loved The History of Love so much. But…it was a bit too disengaged for me. It wasn’t quite a collection of short stories and it wasn’t quite a novel.  
19.   *The Truth About Celia by Kevin Brockmeier        Fiction/Fantasy
This is such a clever book as it is set up as a book inside of a book. There are two cover pages—the real one and then the fake one introducing the book that the fictional Christopher wrote after his daughter disappeared. This story delves into fantasy in such an easy and believable way. It is about Christopher dealing with his daughter’s disappearance, trying to explain why she left, reliving her last known moments, and coping with life afterwards. This is such a smart, quick read.
20.   **Here if You Need Me: A True Story by Kate Braestrup       Memoir
Oh I loved this story. Kate Braestrup is funny, charming, honest, and a great story teller. This is the story about her husband suddenly dying in a car crash and her taking over his dream of being a chaplain for the game wardens in Maine. It is a mix of stories about grief, love, chaplain hood, and the Maine game wardens.  Ugh, so good!! Read it!
21.   *Blankets by Craig Thompson       Graphic Novel/Semi-Autobiographical
So this book is massive. Really massive. I picked it up from the library and wasn’t quite sure that I’d be able to read the whole thing…but then I sat down and read the entire book in one sitting. The book is set in Wisconsin and deals with a young man growing up and dealing with new love, faith, loneliness, identity, and all the joys of adulthood. Oh and did I mention that his drawings are terrific?!
22.   *Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork      Young Adult
This book is about 17 year old Marcelo who has an autism-like condition. His father pushes him into dealing with the real world and what follows is an addicting story about experiencing the joys and pains of living. Marcelo is a unique character who should not be missed…so go read it!  
23.   *Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool       Historical Young Adult
This is a great read that is cleverly written. The story is set in two different time periods that are connected by newspaper clippings. At first I thought this might be too confusing and wasn’t sure I was ready to remember all the character names, story lines, etc. But it quickly drew me in and I was right there next to Abilene as she got in trouble, explored, and tried to figure out the story behind her dad and the town of Manifest, Kansas. Abilene is a spirited little girl who helps a small town remember who it is.
24.   Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea      Fiction
I don’t listen to audiobooks very much but this one I happened to listen to while I was busy sewing one night. I really enjoyed listening to it because there were a lot of Spanish sayings and names that were fun to listen to. It wasn’t my favorite story….but it was fun to listen to.
25.   *See Me Naked by Amy Frykhom      Nonfiction
This book looks at nine different stories of how the Christian portrayal of sexuality has affected their lives. This book definitely added a new and interesting voice to the discussion of sexuality, religion, and moral living. Fykhom writes a terrific last chapter that gives a new way to view our sexuality and to help us remember that embracing our body can actually lead us into a richer relationship with God. She shows how we can overcome the harmful beliefs that many of us have from growing up in the church and live a fuller Christian life. While some of the stories were pretty extreme cases—I really appreciated the conversation that Frykhom started.
26.   **Lovely, Raspberry by Aaron Belz        Poetry
This is an awesome little book of poetry! I must have read at least half of them out loud to my husband (while he was trying to read his own book—oops!). They are so dry, so unexpected, so unpretentious. It reminds me of why I like poetry—how fun it can be!
27.   House of Prayer No.2 by Mark Richard       Memoir
An interesting story about a boy who is plagued with deformed hips. It is a mix of coming of age, dealing with a perfectionist father, a race against time (doctors said he’d be lame by age 30), and losing and finding his faith. A very intriguing story…but the second person writing was way too distracting for my taste.
28.   The Illumination by Kevin Brockmeier       Fiction/Fantasy
I am a fan of Kevin Brockmeier. I think he is very clever and is willing to push the boundaries in writing fiction. The Illumination is about a world that is filled with people who glow from their wounds. If someone has a cut finger, the cut would glow. If someone has lung cancer, their chest would glow. But throughout the book, a private journal of one lined love notes gets passed from one person to the next so you end up seeing how each person deals and struggles in this new world. Some of the stories were harder for me to connect with than others, but overall I love the idea of the book and loved many parts of the book—if not in its entirety.
29.   Marriage and Other Acts of Charity by Kate Braestrup       Memoir
This is my second book by Kate Braestrup and it is my second favorite of hers. This book is about her experience in her first marriage, her experience as a chaplain dealing with marriages, counseling and divorce, and then ultimately about her second marriage after being widowed. She is completely honest about her journey on figuring out how to love—and it is appreciated! It didn’t have the same depth as her first book, but it was still a good read about choosing to love every day…and it is full of nuggets of wisdom for a newbie at marriage!
30.   **Imagine by Jonah Lehrer      Nonfiction
This is a book that makes me want to talk about it in every conversation that I have. It is so interesting! Lehrer looks at misconceptions about creativity, how the brain works, what motivates creativity, and much more! He has lots of stories inside that helped draw me through as I am not much of a nonfiction reader. A nice, light read that has definitely affected how I think about creativity!
31.   Swamplandia! By Karen Russell      Fiction
Hmm…this is a tough book to summarize what I think about it. For one thing, I loved the title. I wasted no opportunities at saying Swamplandia! outloud. I also wasted no opportunities at reading this book. I was drawn in and sucked all the way through the alligator wrestling, family struggles, and the dark crannies of the swamp. It is a bit gloomy and disturbing, but so original that I couldn’t help but be intrigued. Immediately after reading it, I put her book of short stories on hold at the library…always a good sign about a good book.  

Day 148 and 149: Writing

Time: 2+ hours
Listening to: Bob Dylan, Bonnie Raitt

I've been writing up my thoughts on the 31 books that I've read so far this year! To be posted soon! Like we're talking minutes...

Monday, May 28, 2012

Day 146 & 147: Relapse (I ran out of yarn!!)

So this one really wasn't my fault! Well, okayyy, I guess it was my fault for not bringing enough yarn...but it isn't my fault that I'm such a speedy knitter on car trips!!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Day 144 & 145: Knitting!

Time: eh?
Listening to: Tires on the open road

It is hard to be crafty while you are traveling around! Knitting while driving works pretty good until you run out of yarn...

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Day 141: Flowers!

Time: 20 minutes?
Listening to: Regina Spektor (love her!)

We had some leftover flowers from graduation at the store so two of us picked out the good ones. I have some cute little bottles at home so I decided to make a couple little vases. Here is what I came up with:

My three little vases!

I love putting this little vase on my color coordinated bookshelf!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Day 140: Oregon Embroidery

Time: One hour
Listening to: Murder She Wrote

I finally finished my map! Now I just have to figure out what I want to do with it...

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Day 139: Cooking Chickpea Avocado Tacos

Time: Four hands make light work--15 minutes?
Listening to: I've been enjoying MissIndie's playlist today

My husband and I made one of my favorite recipes today! I don't remember where I found this recipe oh so long ago but I've been making it and loving it for a while now!

Chickpea Avocado Tacos

What you need:

1 avocado
1 can of chickpeas
1 garlic clove (minced)
3 tablespoon cilantro
1 tablespoon lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

First you need to mash the avocado. To pick out a good avocado, just feel how soft it is. If it is hard, then it isn't ripe. A soft (but not squishy) avocado will be the easiest to mash and the tastiest. I like to cut the avocado in half and then use a spoon to scoop out the good stuff.

Drain the chickpeas, wash them, and then pour into the bowl of mashed avocado. Stir together. Mince the garlic and the cilantro. Add both into the mixture. Add a squirt of lemon juice. We didn't have lemon juice today so we added pineapple juice which tasted pretty good!

Feel free to taste at any point of the process and add whatever flavoring you'd like. Usually salt and pepper is enough for me!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Day 138: Embriodery of Oregon

Time:  A couple hours
Listening to: Murder She Wrote (should we just start assuming this??)

Still working on my map but I'm getting so close!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Day 137: Embroidery

Time: Hours
Listening to: Murder She Wrote, of course!

I swear that Murder She Wrote is the best TV show to watch while embroidering. I stayed up way too late last night watching show after show on Netflix. The good news is that I made some great progress on my map embroidery!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Day 135 & 136: Relapse (resume building)

So I've been working on my resume a couple nights now and haven't had the time to make anything. Boo. My little map embroidery keeps calling my name...

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Day 134: Cooking Flower (Peppers) Eggs

Time: 1/2 hour or so
Listening to: My family

So I saw this tutorial awhile ago for Flower Power Eggs and knew instantly that I was going to make that for my mom on Mother's Day. I've made this for her in the past but wanted to do something different this time. My dad worked his magic on the bacon while my husband whipped up some pancakes. Overall, we had a pretty tasty Mother's Day meal, if I do say so myself!

All you need are peppers, eggs, salt and pepper, and some oil. Put a wee bit of oil in your pan and set the oven to low heat. Then crack your egg into the sliced pepper and cover.

I think it took us about 15 minutes on low heat to have them cooked well. You can also crack the yoke if you don't like runny eggs (like me).

Here are our eggs at work...

And here is my beautiful, smart, funny, just plain terrific mother!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Day 133: Embroidery

Time: Hour and a half ish
Listening to: Silence

I started working on a new embroidery. My hubby is going to grad school in Oregon this fall for Geography so what better way to embrace my future by embroidering a map of Oregon in relation to the rest of the United States?!

Here is the start:

And miles and miles to go....

Friday, May 11, 2012

Day 132: Baking Peanut Butter Pretzel Bites

Time: Less than an hour probably
Listening to: Shuffle on ipod

My family is a little nutty for the mix of chocolate and peanut butter. Around Christmas, our traditional chocolate peanut butter balls hardly last more than an hour. So for Mother's Day, I wanted to make my mom a treat and knew almost instantly what I wanted to make her....Peanut Butter Pretzel Bites! Gah, so delicious!

What you need:
1 cup creamy peanut butter
2 tbsp softened butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar (maybe more)
3/4 cup brown sugar (maybe more)
1 bag  semi-sweet chocolate chips

Mix the softened butter and the peanut butter. Then add in the sugars. Supposedly this is supposed to be the right consistency to roll the mixture into balls but mine was WAY too sticky. I added more of both sugars and it was still way sticky. If you can't get the right consistency, don't worry. We also have money in the banana stand*, aka plan b.

Stick the mixture into the freezer for about a half hour. Then roll the mixture into balls and smash between two pretzels. My plan b was just spreading the mixture on a pretzel with a knife before squishing it with the other pretzel. It worked just fine.  After that, melt your chocolate and do some dipping. Store them in the fridge/freezer depending on your gooey level.

*If you don't know this reference, you should really invest in watching all seasons of Arrested Development.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Day 131: Self Portrait Embroidery

Time: 2+ hours
Listening to: Murder She Wrote

I worked on a new embroidery of my husband and I. Here's the finished project:

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Day 130: Editing a paper

Time: An hour or so?
Listening to: I don't know!

My brother-in-law asked me to edit a paper of his for school so I worked on that this evening. I haven't edited a paper for a while so it was fun to do it again!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Day 129: Knitting

Time: One hour
Listening to: Smash

Just a simple night of knitting, folks! Still on yellow...

Monday, May 7, 2012

Day 128: Drawing of Oregon

Time: An hour or two
Listening to: Modern Family and Community

My husband and I are officially moving to Oregon! To bond with the state, I've now become obsessed with replicating the shape. Here are a few drawings that may or may not lead into embroidered wall hangings, pillows, or canvases.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Day 127: Baking No-Bake Energy Bites

Time: Less than an hour
Listening to: Still obsessed with my new Birdy CD

I made some No-Bake Energy Bites today! I'd seen them over on Smashed Peas and Carrots and have been wanting to make them for quite a while now. So today I found some ground flaxseed at the grocery store and went to work.

Here is what I used--it looks like you can do some variety but I stuck with the recipe and was super pleased with how they came out!

1 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/3 cup honey
1 cup coconut flakes
1/2 cup ground flaxseed
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
1 tsp vanilla

Mix it all together, chill for 1/2 hour, then shape into bite sized balls. Smashed Peas said they'll last in a the fridge for a week but I'm pretty sure they won't last long enough to test it!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Just for fun!

I have this arrangement on my coffee table and it makes me so happy every time I walk by!

My sister-in-law brought me these beautiful flowers yesterday.
My husband surprised me with the awesome bookshelf book.
And I picked up Imagine at the library today.
Yay for beautiful things!

Day 126: Drawing

Time: Hour and a half
Listening to: Birdy---soo good, I've been listening ALL day!

Today I spent some time prepping for an upcoming project. I've been wanting to do an embroidery of my lovely husband and me so here are some pretty rough sketches that I might work from.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Day 125: Drawing/Doodling

Time: Here and there for an hourish
Listening to: Wii Games

My sister-in-law and brother came over last night to play the Wii and eat & drink deliciousness. Between dancing, bowling, and baseball I picked up my sketch book and continued on with my use of Sharpies!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Day 124: Drawing/Doodling

Time: An hour and a half
Listening to: Hart of Dixie

Today at work we hosted a Sharpie Day which consisted of timed drawings, free giveaways and fun things like that. While I didn't get to do any drawing there, I did leave with a purse (small purse) full of new Sharpies!  It was a pretty busy day so I was ready for some rest and alone time when I got home and lucky for me, I had some bad TV watching to catch up on. So I pulled out my sketch pad, picked my new favorite colors and doodled away!

Here are some of my masterpieces:

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Day 123: Mending

Time: Hour and a half
Listening to: Some Kind of Wonderful (80's movie)

Last summer I got a purse and really loved it...except that it started falling apart on me. The inside is a silky material that can't quite withstand my apparently rough purse handling ways. But I wasn't quite ready to chuck it so I took a needle and thread to it last night to see if I could repair it. And I did! My fingers were so sore by the end of it, but it felt good to practice the art of mending.

This is just one of the areas it was ripping. I had about seven spots in all.


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Days 121-122: Rest, knitting, and reading!

So I've been slacking a bit this week after a pretty full weekend! I have been doing some knitting but quite halfheartedly. I have added a couple rows on though!