Monday, December 10, 2012

Celtic Carol

Christmas music is a favorite in our house. We own around 50 CDs of Christmas music and we are always on the lookout for new Christmas albums by our favorite artists and groups. So, naturally, I'm drawn to this video by Lindsey Stirling. This song has several traditional Christmas carols put together in a really great medley. I love the little "elf locked in Santa's workshop" story. Super cute.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Our Christmas Countdown

So I actually took this idea from my friend Carrie. I read about it on her blog and decided that this year, I was going to do it, too!

I went through our bookshelves and collected all of our Christmas books. There weren't quite enough, so I then decided to use any winter stories as well (Carrie went to the library-- I worried about not finding enough Christmas stories, and having them too long/overdue). I came up with 24 Christmas and winter stories and wrapped them up in our Christmas wrapping paper. Each night, one of my boys gets to select a story to unwrap, counting us down until Christmas. Carrie has a super cute basket that she put hers in. Mine are just stacked on the little end table. I love the idea of a basket, though.

I first started wrapping the books in the kitchen. But then I had nosy boys who wouldn't let "I'll tell you when I'm ready" be a good enough answer. I got questions like, "Why are you wrapping books that we already have?" and "What are we going to do with all those? Are we giving them away?" I wanted to tell them when it was all finished. So I took the wrapping to my room. When I brought them all out, my youngest son said, "I know those are books, Mom. Are we supposed to know they are books?" I said, "Yes, it's okay that you know they are books." He then said, "I want to open one!" Who doesn't like opening presents early? Even when you know it's a book.

It has been really fun. We have everything from How The Grinch Stole Christmas, The Queen of Christmas, and Mouse's First Christmas to Owl Moon, Snow, and Bear Snores On. Of course there is the classic The Night Before Christmas, but I forgot to mark it so it would be last. I don't remember how I wrapped it, so it'll just have to be read when it is unwrapped! Some stories are silly (There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bell) and some help us remember why we celebrate Christmas (Tomie's Little Christmas Pageant).

What better way to count down to Christmas than by opening a present every night--and then reading it?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Holiday Porch

For about 3 days this week, we had 3 holidays on our front porch. The Sunday before Halloween, while visiting my husband's parents, they gave us two HUGE pumpkins that had grown under their fence from the neighbor's yard (he said they could keep them). We brought them home and then worried about how to carve such massive pumpkins. Sometimes when a gourd gets that big, the meat of it is really thick. We didn't really want to exert the brute force it would take to carve out even just the traditional triangles and a smile. As my husband and I looked them over, our boys asked if we were going to paint our pumpkins again this year. Oh, yeah! Last year, all the cousins got together and painted pumpkins at my mom's house. We decided this was the safer route and the kids got to be more 'hands on' about it. So, they painted the pumpkins and they were placed on the front porch.

About a week into November, I remembered a pair of wooden pilgrims that I had painted about 7 years ago. So, I retrieved them from the crawl space and they took their post next to the front door. I looked at the pumpkins and decided that they were comfortable where they were. (Did I mention the massive size of those things?)

The Monday after Thanksgiving, I decided I wanted to hang the Christmas lights on the house while it was still moderately nice weather and the ice was not yet a threat. I had spent a good couple hours and a blood blister on my thumb getting the burned out lights all changed and good to go on Saturday. So, it was time. I went with the limited ladder approach this year, just wrapping them around the porch and the two window awnings instead of across the eaves of the roof.

And then, for three days, our porch celebrated Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas all at the same time. I'd have left it longer, but today was garbage day, and my husband wanted to toss them, rather than have them get all slimy over the next week or 3. So, we took the kids out to the porch, had them sit by their own pumpkin and we got a shot. It doesn't show the lights very much, but if you look at the edges of the picture, the lights are wrapped around the porch railings.
Our Holiday Porch. Happy Hallow-Thanks-Mas!

And, since we are talking about Halloween, here is a bit of sew and tell that I didn't get to share yet. I love to make my boy's Halloween costumes, and they love to be involved with all the details. Here is what we had this year.

A Mad Scientist

I made the jacket pattern using a robe that my sister made and passed to us when her son grew out of it. I just eliminated the hood and sash and added a collar and buttons. My son picked out these huge toy buttons. He saved that flourescent yellow shirt all month so it was clean for his costume. He made his name tag that says, "Hello. My name is Mad Scientist." Clever. One day, he is going to be a scientist, I just hope he doesn't really go mad.

A Bat

This guy's bat ears just wouldn't stand up straight. But he never complained once. His favorite part of the costume was that the wings had handles that he could grab for flight. When he was busy with other bat things, he simply let go and the wings hung quietly behind him. I must note that the bat head and vest are made with fleece because bats have fur. But the wings are just cotton, because bat wings are not furry.

And of course, a spooky Lindsey Stirling video that would have been posted with these pics on Halloween, had I sat down and actually posted when I thought of it. Nothing like fighting off zombies with a stringed instrument and a few good dance moves. Please enjoy.

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Queen of Mystery

It's funny how so much can happen in such a short amount of time. And then when you turn around, you find out that it has actually been a much longer time than you thought. I think of things all the time to post on this blog. But those ideas tend to stay unwritten, because I never seem to make it to the keyboard.

The shower is a great idea place. It's a quiet time, no real distractions, just you, hot water, and your thoughts. I often write really brilliant posts while I'm washing my hair. Unfortunately, as soon as I've got the towel in my hair, reality seems to hit the 'play' button again, and that post just gets washed down the drain.

It seems to be too much work to back track much of my recent reading. So, instead, here is what I've got my bookmark in lately, and an invitation to read along and come back and Book Club with me later.

A few months back, my husband brought up from the basement a selection of novels to choose from. In them was Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie. The timing was really great. I had just finished reading a murder mystery that was just terrible. The plot was so-so, the characters were thin, and the dialog was painful at best. But here was a novel that claimed to be written by the 'Queen of Mystery.' It looked to be just the cure for the damage such a terrible piece of writing did to me. I enjoyed Murder on the Orient Express so thoroughly that I wanted to start reading it again from the beginning and loan it to my mom to read at the same time. (How? I'm not sure. But it is such a great read!)

I told my husband that I had a new favorite author and that I wanted to own ALL that Agatha Christie has written. He then informed me that doing so would not be financially sound because of the large volume of novels she has written. But, for our recent anniversary, he bought me two more: Crooked House, which I am currently reading, and And Then There Were None, which I intend to pick up next.

On the back of each of these books is a list of Christie's ten favorites (these 3 are on it). So, since her complete collection is too large to own without nearly taking out another wing in the house (which we certainly cannot do), I think that I will strive to collect at least these ten. If they are her favorites, then they must be worth reading.

SO, if you have read Murder on the Orient Express, and care to comment, please do so. I'd love to hear what you have to say. Who did you think did it? What did you think of the ending? Did you see it when Poirot did, or were you completely shocked when all was revealed? (I was surprised!!)

And, if you care to Book Club with me, I will post on Crooked House first, and then on And Then There Were None in the weeks following that. I'd love you to join me and discuss!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Our family has found another musician on youtube that we really enjoy. Her name is Lindsey Stirling. I will let the video speak for itself.
Please enjoy.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Great Typo Hunt

A little while ago, my husband noticed that I was lacking in a book to read. I had finished my previous selection and had yet to choose another. So, in the interest of being helpful, he brought me several to choose from, leaving the other novels on the end table for me. So began a reading feast!

The first I chose was a nonfiction. I don't read too much in the way of nonfiction. It seems that made up stories tend to catch my interest more often. And if you aren't a good story teller, then the truth comes out rather bland, much like the newspaper. I do read the newspaper every day, but it's just not the same as a great fiction. I read a different nonfiction earlier this summer that was quite brutal to get through. It was just dry and non-engaging. The character development was missing and it felt like the story (or lack, thereof) was just dragging.

But this nonfiction was something different. Written by two men (Jeff Deck and Benjamin Herson), but written in the first person narrative from Mr. Deck's perspective, this book contains a good story. They really knew how to get the words down without leaving me wondering where the story was. It was well-written, bringing me on their journey, and making me feel a part of the adventure.

I present to you, The Great Typo Hunt.  This is the true story of a man's journey (accompanied by several friends) around the great country of the United States of America. His mission? Change the world, one correcction correction at a time. While attending his five-year college reunion, Jeff Deck decided that he wanted to change the world. Many of the people he'd graduated with had done some great things in the five years since graduation. Jeff wanted to make his mark. A road trip was something he was putting into consideration, but how could that tie into doing something great in the world?

Jeff had a degree in creative writing. That led him to a publising company, where he worked as an editor for a few publications. He found that he was a natural at spotting typos. He'd since moved on to another job. But his heart "remained that of a revisor and corrector." When he returned home from his reunion, he noticed a sign: No Tresspassing. The extra s in trespassing seemed to taunt him. It wasn't the first time he'd noticed this sign. But then it made him wonder, how many other mistakes were out there that no one bothered to fix?

And thus, the great typo hunt was born. He enlisted three other friends to accompany him, each on different parts of the trip. He planned three months on the road covering about half of the 50 US States. He went around the country, finding and fixing typos, and blogging about it as he went.

There were some people who were very gracious about correcting the errors, some who were down-right stubborn about it, and then there was a run-in with the law, concerning a historic sign. Corrections were made by request, in secret and some were just simply denied. There were a few times the book wandered a little on a tangent here and there, but mostly, it was a great adventure. And now, I'm seeing typos everywhere!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Reading Totals

As the end of 2010 came around, I realized that it had been a dismal year for my personal reading. I'd hardly gone through much literature at all, and that was depressing. SO, I decided that my 2011 New Year's Resolution would be to read. And to keep myself from allowing this resolution to go by the wayside, as many resolutions do, I made it specific and with documentation. I stated that I would be reading at least one novel each month. I have a little wallet sized notebook in which I would record the titles of each book completed. I even decided that I needed to finish each selection within the parameters of the month, to keep me on track. No carryovers.

So, with simple goal of one book per month and a Book Journal to keep me on track, I began the year with 4 finishes for the month of January. Off on a bold start, I decided that I could up my goal to a minimum of 2 books each month. I kept that goal, and ended the year with a grand total of 33 books read.

I was quite proud of myself. January 2012 came along, and I recorded 3 novels total in my Book Journal. And that's all that are listed for 2012. I kind of slowed down on the reading when I was doing Ray Bradbury reviews each week. By the time that was all finished, I had forgotten the Book Journal altogether. I have certainly read more than 3 books this year. In fact, in the past 2 months, I have read at least 6. I just didn't record them.

Obviously, it's not important for me to record how much I read to keep me in the books. I think that I have done a fairly decent job of keeping the pages flowing, allowing one book to slide into my hands just as soon as the previous book has finished.

However, for my kids, it was very important for them to keep track of all they had read over the summer. Our School District Superintendent issues a Summer Reading Challenge to the students every year. It's simple: read 10 (level appropriate) books or 1,000 pages over the summer. Keep track of the titles and page numbers. Turn in the Reading Challenge sheet during the first week of school. Then the Superintendent sends you a certificate acknowledging the accomplishment. The idea is to keep kids reading during the summer, with the incentive of recognition when school starts again.

To my kids, this is a big deal. While younger kids can include books that are read to them, I encourage my kids to do the reading themselves, and not count the books that I read at bedtime. My boys love to go to the library, happily choosing books they can read alone and then diligently reading them. They kept me on track, and made sure their books were recorded on their lists.

Did they reach their goals? Oh, yes. My oldest son read 20 books with a total of 1,704 pages. His brother read a fabulous 14 books with a total of 626 pages. These were just the books they told me about. I'm certain that my oldest read quite a bit more than the 20 we put on his list, and the 14 on my younger son's list are just the books he read aloud to me. I'm sure he did some independent reading that we didn't think to record.

How does this compare to my 33 books in a year? I don't know how many pages that adds up to. My guess is that it reaches somewhere over 10,000 pages. But I had a whole year and about 25 years of practice. I am truly impressed by the enthusiasm my boys have given in reading a combined 2,330 pages in just 12 weeks. If we were to keep track of every book from January to December, including page numbers, I think they may just beat me. And for that, I am very pleased. Here's to a continued joy in the world of reading. Bravo!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Kitchen Curtains

At the beginning of August, my husband and I decided to reorganize the kitchen a little bit. In so doing, we went through our kitchen cabinets and realized we really needed a change. You see, our kitchen has open cabinets. No doors. We found what might have once been the cabinet doors in the shed out back, but they were in bad shape, so they didn't stay.

The previous owners had painted the shelves and put a decorative edge on the shelves. They also put a chicken wallpaper border along the inside of the bottom shelves. We thought it was cute, and so simply gave the shelves a new coat of paint and used them as is.

However, this month, as we were cleaning things out, we realized that it wasn't really that grand of an arrangement. The top shelves (which contain things rarely used) were extremely dusty, greasy, and sticky. Being uncovered all the time allows excess dust and the grease from the stove to accumulate. We had to thourougly clean everything up there and reconsider the open cabinet idea.

Curtains! It was a quick and inexpensive fix. We decided that the chicken/rooster motif was a good way to go, so we found a bolt of fabric (we bought what was left of it) with appropriate fowl and some inexpensive curtain rods. I measured and then set to work.

And now, here we have a lovely set of chicken curtains to cover the kitchen cabinets, still showing off the wallpaper that was laid in the bottom shelves. There is a border around the rest of our kitchen with little country houses. But it's faded and peeling. So we decided that one day, we are going to tear that down and find some sunflowers to go around the top. They will go nicely with the sunflowers in the curtains and balance things out. But for now, I'm content to admire my chickens over the cupboards.

August Finishes

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Simple Pleasures

I told you about our basement project. One thing I didn't mention was that our laundry room was being shifted as well. My father-in-law saw to it that I wasn't without a washing machine for more than a few days. As soon as he could get the water lines moved, he had my washer all hooked up and running.

Some of you are now wondering, "But what about the dryer?" For me, that wasn't a problem. No, I don't have my dryer hooked up right now. My father-in-law still has to drill the new hole for the vent, and wire in the appropriate kind of outlet for my dryer to plug into. But it's not a problem because it is summer. And in the summer, I like to use my clothes line.

I remember last year, as I was leaving my aunt's house I said, "I should go. I have clothes to take down from the line." My aunt, looking quite surprised said, "Is there something wrong with your dryer?" I laughed, "No, I just really like to use the clothes line." To which my aunt responded, "You must like to torture yourself, then."

Really, it's no torture. I find that my laundry gets done a bit more regular, and they make it from wash to dry to FOLDED and put away faster than if I'm using the dryer. It's really easy to get several loads of laundry done and just pile the clean clothes in the baskets. But when it's on the line, I have to take it down and bring it in. It's not the same as grabbing the whole wad of clothes out of the dryer and leaving it for a week. I have to handle each piece and shake it out (who wants box elder bugs in their dresser?), so I might as well fold it, too.

And I do. I fold my laundry as I take it down from the line. It seems better than hauling it in and leaving it. I already have to handle it. Why not do it all at once?

But it's not just the fact that it gets folded right off the line. I really love the way line dried clothes SMELL. It is so fresh. And on a hot day, as I walk through the lines, it's just peaceful and cool there, between the damp clothes. Almost like when I was a little kid and you have that one quiet, secret place, undisturbed if for only a minute...

Okay, so it might be crazy. But when we bought the house I was so excited to see the clothes line. I use it every spring/summer/fall for as long as the weather dries the clothes in a timely manner. And when it's hot, it takes no longer than the dryer does.

Monday, August 6, 2012

When the Walls Talk

My family recently began a basement renovation. Our bathroom there was seriously a closet. The sink was a very old and stained wall mounted fixture, much like one you can find in a public restroom. You could wash your hands in said sink while still seated on the toilet. The shower stall was made of some sort of metal (not kidding) that had been painted on the INSIDE. When we first moved in our home and began using the shower, the paint began to peel. The peeling paint revealed multiple layers of paint, and I'd like to understand WHY a person would be compelled to paint their shower. Especially with paint that is obviously not meant to be used inside a functioning shower. We promptly finished the shower in our upstairs bathroom (previously just a bathtub) and abandoned the monster in the basement.

In addition to the tiny/non-functional bathroom, our family room was quite cramped and there were some heating issues (read- "no heat in the basement") which lead us to hang blankets over doorways and using a space heater to try and keep warm during our time spent down there.

My father-in-law saw the issues we had in our basement. Sensing that it was time to make some changes for the better, he generously volunteered to do the renovation. He drew up some plans, which included moving some walls, enlarging the family room and bathroom (and in so doing, enlarging a bedroom), and fixing the heating issues.

The first step in doing such a project would be to gut the place. Take down the existing walls (which, by the way, contained ZERO insulation) and get rid of the fixtures that simply would not serve adequate for my family. Tear down found us some very interesting things. Want to know what? I know you do.

Within the walls and ceiling were several things that we couldn't quite figure out. The walls in our basement were certainly trying to tell us something. What exactly they'd like to say, however, I'm still not quite sure of.
We found a bottle of Brandy, a pair of antlers (six point deer, I believe), a speaker from the drive-in movie theater, a roasting skewer, and a "No Parking" sign. All inside the walls and ceiling! Why? My husband believes the speaker was hidden in the ceiling because a kid who lived here stole it and then couldn't display it proudly without getting in trouble. But the Brandy in the wall? How would you get back to it? It was sheet-rocked in! The "No Parking" sign is a real one (I can't find it to take a pic, though), but it has never been hung on a street post (no tool markings). There was also a coffee can (the picture of which I cannot find) that was retro-fitted to create part of a heating duct. No wonder we had heating problems. They were trying to make coffee with the heater!

So, I'm not sure what kind of story my house is trying to tell me. But it sure was interesting, nonetheless! If you have a story that could link up all the hidden junk we found, feel free to leave me a comment and share what you think.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Recovering Charles

I just finished reading a book that I borrowed from my mom, by Jason F. Wright, Recovering Charles. It is a really great read, and I'd like to recommend it. Check it out at

Luke Millward is a photographer. Hurricane Katrina has just hit the south, and he's compelled by the footage on TV. He can't seem to get enough of it, until one day, he gets a phone call. It's a man from New Orleans, calling to tell him his father (whom he hasn't spoken to in a few years) is missing. This man is asking Luke to come from New York to help find his father in the aftermath of the disaster.

Jason F. Wright also wrote the Christmas Jars (and several other titles) and if you've read that, then you'll know his characters are relatable. It doesn't really feel like fiction. These are real people, with real emotions and real stories. This story pulls you in from the beginning, and makes you want to find the ending just as much as Luke does. I really appreciate an author who can write characters whom you feel like you already know and care about.

I really enjoyed this book, and I finished it in less than a week. I hope you can enjoy it, too.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

(First Ever) Family Vacation

My family recently took a week long road trip to San Diego, California. We live about 12 hours away, so we stopped off for the night at a little over half way in both directions. My kids thought staying in more than one hotel was really cool. This was our first EVER family vacation. My husband and I never even took a vacation pre-children, we were too busy trying to finish college, make ends meet, and save money. Life just goes on. Add in kids, finish college, get a steady job, buy a car, keep saving, time for a house, keep saving, make ends meet, start a new degree, work, school, playgrounds, life!

SO, when we looked at our savings at the end of last year, and the fact that my husband would be finished with his Master's Degree, we decided that this summer was it. Time to go out and see something other than our little world of library, neighborhood parks, elementary, and children's museum.
Our vacation consisted of Sea World, the San Diego Zoo, a Harbor Cruise, a tour through the USS Midway Navy ship Museum, and playing at the beach. We packed a lot into our week and had a blast. Here are some of the things that I learned while on vacation.
  • If you are up-front and optimistic about a long drive, the kids will be just fine!
We forewarned the kids that after breakfast, we would be getting in the car and we would be driving until dinner time. I packed a lunch and told them we'd stop somewhere for a little picnic, but besides bathroom breaks and lunch, we would be driving all day. We loaded up the MP3 player with all sorts of music, brought along several car games, and a variety of snack foods and we headed out.

It was a bit surprising how fast an hour (or three!) can go in the car. I was trying to watch for each half-hour so I could announce "Stretch out your body!" but often found we didn't really stretch that often. Not only that, but the kids were entertained by some of the games for a surprisingly long time. As long as the music was enjoyable, they rode along fine, and I didn't hear "Are we there yet?" or "Why can't we just be there, already" or "How much longer?" at all. Every so often one of the boys would ask for the time, but it wasn't a complaint, merely a curiosity, often followed up with "Really?!" I also had a road atlas that I periodically pulled out to show them how far we'd traveled. They could see where we'd been and how far we had to go, and that seemed to put a little bit of perspective on things.
  • Just because you can see it from where you are standing on the Strip doesn't mean it's really that close.
Our first night was spent in Las Vegas. We arrived around 5:30, and so decided to have dinner at the nearby fast food place and see some of the sights on the Strip. The Bellagio was across the street and about 2 blocks away from our little motel, so after eating, that's where we headed. Our kids had never seen the fountains, and we thought that would be fun.
After all the oohs and aahs, we thought it might be fun to see the pirate show in front of Treasure Island. "It's not that far" we thought. WRONG! It was over a mile away, which isn't a bad walk, my kids walk that far from school. But when you don't know it's that far and it's hot and we left our water bottles in the motel's a really miserable walk. Turns out, by the time we got there, we'd missed the show by about 20 minutes and the next was not starting for nearly an hour. Now we have a couple of hot, grouchy kids, no show to watch, and still at least a mile to walk before we can get back to our room. Arrgh!
  • It's amazing what a bathroom break and a bottle of water can do to change an attitude.
We had initially told the kids we'd swim in the pool before bed, but looking at the time and how long it took us to get to Treasure Island, we decided that there wouldn't be adequate swimming time. So, spotting a WalGreens across the street, we decided to take a quick bathroom break, buy some water (found some good size bottles for $0.99!) and stake out our spaces for the next show. The kids were refreshed and in much happier moods, especially since we promised that they'd get swimming time in San Diego for SURE. The walk back wasn't even that bad.
  • Milk is always the first thing to go at a free hotel breakfast. So get there first or go without.
  • Make sure when you call the hotel desk for directions, you both know which street she is talking about.
When we arrived in San Diego, we decided we needed to see the beach and the ocean! I called the desk for directions. She asked if I knew the road we came into the lobby on. Yes, it's the same as the road that leads into our parking lot... So following her directions by starting on the road on the side of the hotel, we went in a great big circle that took 20 minutes to get to the freeway. Only she was referring to the road in FRONT of the lobby, not the side entrance where we came in. Luckily we still found the freeway, but we used that route for 2 days! On the morning of day 3, my husband went down to ask for directions to the zoo (The beaches and Sea World are the same general direction). The desk clerk gave him an entire sheet of driving directions for various places around San Diego. This was when we discovered our error. If the woman I'd spoken to in the first place had told me the name of the street, we would have saved a whole lot of time those first two days. The freeway entrance is right there. Whoops.
  • Roads in San Diego are not what they seem.
Our first night in San Diego, we had dinner fairly close to our hotel. I spotted a grocery store across the street and we went over to get a few things. To get to the store, we had to go around the block and come in at the other side of the parking lot. As we left, we went out of the parking lot the same way we got in it, and figured if we turned at the next corner, we'd come to the intersection across from the restaurant. Only we didn't. Somehow we ended up in a different neighborhood and came back around in this big circle TWICE. We thought we had gone the right way because we passed a restaurant that was the same as the one we ate at...only it was not the same one. I can't even be sure how we got back to the store the third time, but we went about a different route, and managed to make it back to the hotel...after driving around for about 30 minutes. And my awesome streetwise road map that we bought did not list all these weird streets we ended up on. I still cannot figure out how we ended up where we did, and how we ever got back around.
  • Even in weather that isn't very hot, the beach is something you shouldn't pass up. 
The kids had a blast! My oldest spent most of his time jumping the waves, while my youngest decided that he'd rather bury himself in the sand. It was so fun. We went to the beach twice, and I'm so glad that we did.

  • Saying "We're going to spend the day at Sea World" really means the whole day.
Watching for Shamu
Nose to Nose with a Dolphin
Somehow, my husband didn't think we'd really be there ALL day. I'm not sure what else he thought we'd do, but there really wasn't much time for anything else. There were shows to see and exhibits to examine. We even got to throw ice cubes to the dolphins. They like to eat them!
  • Starting with the bus tour in the zoo is merely an over-view, but a good way to learn some stuff you didn't know before.
The bus tour of the San Diego Zoo comes with a regular day-ticket. So we started there. The map said it covers 70% of the zoo, and I thought, "Cool! This way we can see most of it now and get what we can't see on foot, thus spending our time wisely." Well, the problem with that, is that you can't get out and go stare at the windows until the animals appear. If the driver can't see anything, she'll pause for a moment and then move on. But we learned some really cool stuff, and did get to see some of the animals that weren't visible when we went back on foot. But one really cool thing we did see when we walked over? Two polar bears wrestling in and out of their pool. One would get out and the other would pull him back in. It was really cool.
  • Sometimes they whine and drag their feet because they are hungry, not bored.
Keep the snacks coming, and keep an eye on the time and the location of the nearest eateries. Again, what a mood changer!
  • Be sure to get change for the penny-stretching machines. After all, what's 50 cents when it makes your kid smile?
  • A Harbor Cruise is not all that exciting for kids.
They enjoyed watching the water for a little while, and we saw a dolphin swim by and sea lions sunbathing on the buoys. But they spent most of the time sitting at the table in the middle of the deck playing a game with their water bottles. Oh, well. This one was for us.

  • Sometimes a tantrum isn't because he doesn't want to do it, but because he's scared.
The morning we were getting ready for our Harbor Cruise, our younger son was being really obstinate and ended up throwing a royal fit. He said he wanted to stay in the hotel and watch TV. After some serious anger from our boy, my husband had the thought to get down and ask him gently why he didn't want to go. Turns out he was really scared of getting on the boat. Who knew? After we reassured him that we'd be right there, and that he'd be safe, he took a deep breath, smiled and said, "Let's go!"
  • The "Family Self-Guided Tour" on the USS Midway is really cool!
The USS Midway is an old Navy Ship with a Flight Deck. (That's it behind my boys). When you get inside the Hangar Deck, they hand you a headset and a little digital player. Then you follow the signs. As you tour the ship, you stop in various places and type in the number located on the signs. There is a regular tour that goes into great detail and depth. The other tour (taking the same route) has fewer stops, but the narrator talks on a kid's level and explains the ins and outs of the ship in a family friendly way. It was really cool and the kids were interested the whole time! The kids were excited to see it in the first place, and they didn't get bored early because they had their own personal tour guide! It's not free, but it was worth it. And I got to throw all my boys in the Brig.

  • Having an extra day just to swim in the hotel pool and watch free cable tv is worth it before that last long drive home.
When we reached our halfway point on the way home, we actually stayed two nights. It was really nice to break up that drive with a day in between. It was like a vacation from the vacation. We swam in the hotel pool, watched cable TV and just relaxed before that last leg home. I was glad for it. And the kids seemed ready to go in the morning. Breakfast, and then on our way.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Independence Day

I know I'm a few days late on this post. But I still thought that this video was worth sharing. July 4th is the day we celebrate our Independence from England, allowing us to set up our own government with a vote. I am grateful for our freedoms. Please enjoy.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Curious Creatures

A few days ago, I had a meeting to attend. I was given the wrong time, and so arrived quite early (when in fact, I thought I was 15 minutes late!). I wasn't sure if I was only 15 minutes early or if it in fact started at the top of the next hour, so I decided against going home to wait and then being wrong (and late) again. I went into the room we were to be meeting in and found a few chairs set up along the back wall. Not being in charge, I didn't know how the chairs were going to be set up for the meeting, so I just sat in one of the chairs already there.

As I sat there looking out at the empty room I noticed a dark spot on the carpet. Occasionally there are refreshments served at meetings and I figured that this spot was the remnants of something spilled. By the time I had determined that the meeting was in fact at the start of the next hour, I happened to look up just as this dark spot (which up until this point was quite stationary) began to run in a wide circle. It was, in fact a spider. I wasn't sure what made it suddenly run around, but after it made a few turns, it stopped, again looking like a small stain on the carpet. After about 5 more minutes, the spider ran around in a wide circle and stopped. This happened repeatedly. It would rest and then run. Not going anywhere in particular and not making any progress in any one direction.
I considered using my notebook to let it crawl on and putting it outside, or even smashing it. But I didn't. I just couldn't interrupt it's curious regimen. Run in a circle, stop and blend in. Repeat. So I just watched it.

Ten minutes to the next hour and the women hosting the meeting arrived, bringing in their supplies. I noted that the spider sat quietly in the middle of the floor as soon as the movement of people was detected. I got up and helped set up the chairs and saw that the spider remained motionless. We set up the chairs in a large circle, as the meeting was to be a discussion/sharing type, leaving the spider undisturbed. When they were set up, I sat in a chair a few feet from the spider, and wondered if it would go back to its curious movements once the meeting began. However, one of the women in charge walked across the circle to place the agenda on each of the chairs, right in the path of the spider. Noting the impending danger, the spider immediatly jumped up and made a straight line for the side of the room, disappearing behind the remaining chairs stacked along the wall.

Don't we all act this way some times? We run around in a seemingly mindless manner, but in fact doing what suits us for the moment. Then when there is a sense of urgency, we know just what to do to make things work out. Hopefully we have the sense to get out of the way when danger approaches and know when it is okay to be carefree, even if it appears as though we are only running about in circles. I had no real point to this story, but I thought it was just something interesting that I was the only witness to. Funny how a little spider can make you feel philosophical.

Monday, June 25, 2012

ThePianoGuys: Waterfall

From the PianoGuys website:
"Written when he was 17, "Waterfall" is like an old friend to Jon. It got him the cutest girl in his high school, made him the life of many parties, and has been a big hit with pianists and piano teachers alike. Jon says that in high school it was proof that chics dig even ugly guys with skills.
"This tune has significant meaning to Jon and all of us at ThePianoGuys because it played a pivotal role in convincing Jon to commit to a full-time career as a pianist."

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Master in the House!

About a year and a half ago, my husband decided it was now time to return to college and earn his Master's Degree. He had about 5 years teaching under his belt, and that was the agreed upon time frame to move from Bachelor's to Master's. After all, isn't the fun of teaching, gettting to teach? So, having found himself comfortable in his school, it was time to add to his own education (and stress level!).

Today, it is official. He is finished. His grades are in and the degree has been awarded. Because his last class was during Summer Semester, the University encouraged all students who were finishing in the summer to participate in the Spring Graduation. We went to the hooding, and it was a really cool feeling to watch them put that strange piece of satin and polyester over his head. His final class actually ended a week early (last week) and today, which would have been his last day of class, his final grade was posted on his transcript. To celebrate, we called the student loan company, inquired upon his pay off amount and returned the money borrowed for his tuition.

That's right. Not only is he finished with his Master's, but we have already paid off his Student Loan. What's our secret? We didn't know how much we needed. So, we took the full loan amount they offered us. We then put it in our bank account and then only used it for tuition and books. My husband was also teaching a concurrent enrollment class in his school. The University giving credit for the concurrent class offered to pay for one class at the University for every semester they taught. He took advantage of this and didn't have to pay for all of his classes. Because of this, the bulk of the loan just sat there. Then, when we got our tax return this year, it happened to cover the amount we spent. We got our first statement and we just sent all the money back. Done and done!

Summer is now officially here, and I couldn't be more proud of my husband and his accomplishments. He has worked really hard to keep his grades up (3.95 GPA!) and make sure his students weren't neglected. And now, he actually has time to read what he wants! Free time? Is this a new thing?

Congratulations, husband! We are so proud of you.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Girl's Camp & Nature People

Camping and summer are two things that seem to go hand in hand. Some people are not very enthusiastic about camping. Some people head out as soon as the weather hints at warmer temperatures. As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, we understand that there is something special about getting out into nature and away from our regular lives. It can be a time for reflection. It is a time to appreciate and enjoy the beauty that our Father in Heaven has created for us.

Because of this belief, every summer, the Young Women (girls, ages 12-17) and their adult leaders (whether or not they actually like camping) pack their stuff and spend a few days camping. I am a Counselor in our Young Women Presidency, and so, I had the opportunity to go camping this week with our girls. Our ward (congregation) was joined by the Young Women from the 5 other wards in our stake (neighborhood), and while we had time with just our girls, we also combined for a few things with the entire group.

It's funny, as a youth you don't realize the amount of time and stress and sometimes frustration that actually goes into preparing for this camping trip. How hard could it be? You sing annoying/pointless songs, you eat, you sleep in tents on air mattresses that don't stay fully inflated, you make crafts, you wear serious amounts of sunblock and bug spray; add in a hike, a Snipe Hunt, and a few Spiritual moments around the camp fire, and you are good, right?

Sun Jar
Ha, ha. Sounds so easy. But there is so much work and craziness that it just isn't terribly simple. The sweet girls who come don't have any idea the weeks and weeks of preparation that goes into it. Then you are running behind on your schedule, this craft has to move to a different day, you may have to put the "Thought of the Day" on the back burner for a while, and hopefully the food is cooked all the way (don't worry--it was). The time seems to fly by (where did our block of free time go?), the sun jars (which are beautiful despite their flaws) won't cooperate, clean up takes longer than anticipated, and it seems as though an entire day has disappeared completely. And then, before you know it, camp is over.

Our ward's Camp Director and I looked back over the last few days to give out "Camp Awards." We gave out things like "Extra Miler," "Camp Cheerleader," and "Compassionate Camper." As we were looking at what each girl should receive, we realized that despite all of the stress and frustrations, it was all worth it. The girls in our ward got along so well together. There were no petty fights or bickering between any of our girls. Looking back at my experiences camping as a Young Woman, the fights and tears were ALWAYS part of Girl's Camp. It seemed we could never have a camp without it. But these girls are stellar! We had a relatively small group of girls and one really huge tent, so they shared it. Sounds like asking for fighting, right? But there wasn't any. We, as leaders, slept in a smaller tent together, and we let the girls bond. But it spread from our girls to the rest of the camp. They befriended girls from many of the other wards, and left secret notes of encouragement in the mail boxes of several girls who were not their assigned "Secret Sister." They tried to include as many girls as possible in anything we were doing. And really, we had a marvelous time.

One thing that I enjoyed was a little craft we did on the last day. We made little "Nature People" out of stuff we found while hiking and in our camp ground. I first thought it was kind of a silly idea, but decided my boys might enjoy them. So I made two. They turned out so cute and ugly, and my boys played with them all day today. They are sitting proudly on their dressers now. I am glad I chose to make some and bring them home as a token of camp. I now have one Girl's Camp under my belt as an adult leader, and I think I'm a bit better prepared for next year. And it's going to be a blast.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Book of Lost Things

While I was away, I've had a lovely time, reading several new things. On the top of my list and one I'd like to share is a book by John Connolly called The Book of Lost Things. The red book cover is what my copy looks like, although according to Connolly's site, that cover is the paperback edition for the UK. I bought it in a US bookstore. Weird. But this way you can be looking for either cover if you happen to choose to read it. And if you do, please stop by and leave me your comments!

The Book of Lost Things is the tale of a young boy named David. He loves his books, particularly his fairy tales and myths. Old stories like those of the Brothers' Grimm and the like. When his world is turned upside down, by a death and a marriage, David finds himself in a new house. The bedroom he is given is filled with books. Among them he finds more tales that he's never read. Finding comfort only from his books, David begins to hear the books whispering in the quiet moments.

David himself is lost in this world, with the war going on out in the world, and no one to turn to but the books within his world. He finds himself in a new world, one with a Crooked Man who may not be one to trust, wolves and things worse than wolves, and characters that seem like his fairy tales, but different. His goal is to find the king who rules this land and has a book that contains all of his secrets... The Book of Lost Things.

This book is full of fantasy and imagination. It is one that keeps you guessing, and even if you do guess what may be happening, there is still enough of a twist to keep you on your toes. I thourougly enjoyed reading it. To my delight, at the end, the author included the full version of all the Fairy Tales and Myths that he borrowed from, and a little background on why he used them and how they work in the story. I found a whole extra day of reading just in the background stuff he pulled for his work. That was fabulous!

While David is 12 years old, John Connolly doesn't reccommend it for young readers. He says that adults and children would read it differently, and he wrote it more for an adult audience. My perspective on this idea is that as an adult, you can reflect on the inner struggles you had as a youth, and perhaps find some identification with David, as well as the wisdom of having come through to the other side of the struggle. A child may still be in the throws of their own struggle and not necessarily understand the ending results because they have not yet come to their conclusion. Certainly, a high school student would have a better time of reading it than a child in late elementary or middle school.

Overall, I found it very fascinating, and read it easily within a few days. I highly reccommend it.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Summer Clean-up

I don't know about the rest of you, but when I've got the house to myself, getting ambitious and busy with cleaning is much easier than when there are people all over the house. I stay home with my kids, and I am of the opinion that because I am home, the household chores need to be kept up by me. I have no problem with that. But when summer hits, I just want to play all day, like a kid, and leave the chores to the wind. Summer vacation means that the kids will be home all day, every day. But for me, that also means that my husband will be home, too. Being a teacher, his summers are spent at home (at least until we find the necessity for him to get a summer job). So, it seems like it's that much harder to keep things in order in my house during the summer. Not that my hubby doesn't help out. He does. But there seems to be no routine anymore. I sleep in. I read all morning, and stuff just doesn't seem to happen on a regular basis. I want to be able to jump at the chance for a family outing on a moment's notice. And somehow, doing the cleaning clouds the idea that that will be possible.

I am definitely a "color inside the lines" kind of a girl. I like schedules and routines. Oh, sure, I'd like to think that I can "laze" about all day, doing nothing without regard to any kind of schedule. But then I'm frustrated because my carpets flinch when I run the vacuum because they don't know what the ruckus is all about, and the floors can't remember when the last time a mop was applied. Not to mention the bathroom mirrors that distort your reflection because of the fingerprints and toothpaste splatter and the piles of laundry that have been sitting so long they can't remember when they were last in the closet.

SO, as the end of school approached, I decided that I needed to do something to combat that. The boys have had "mini" chores to do each day. One simple task to keep them involved, and something to base their meager allowance on. But I decided that since I've got a household full of people every day, I had better utilize them. I created a new schedule for the week. Each day has a room that is to be cleaned. But it's not just a basic "Monday clean the Front Room" kind of chore chart. I needed specifics, and ways to be sure all the bases were covered. This chart has two columns. One labeled "Mom's Chores" and one labeled "Boy's Chores." Under each heading are all the responsibilities that for the assigned room. For example, in the Front Room, my responsibilities are to: dust the piano and book shelves, remove and put away anything that doesn't belong in that room, and vacuum. The boys need to: take all story books back to their bedroom bookshelf, put away any toys left in the room, and take out the garbage (I have a small waste basket for tissues and dryer sheets).

Each day has a room and each room has specific assignments. There are between 3 and 5 things that need taken care of in each room. And like magic, my house is perpetually clean and the boys are involved. We have successfully made it through one week of cleaning together every day after breakfast and I have heard several times from my boys, "I like doing chores together." If I can keep this up, my house will be lovely all summer, and after a while my kids may start keeping things neat and orderly without a reminder (we can all hope, right?).

And because everything is always better with music, here is thePianoGuys' latest video. Here's to a clean house and a summer with a routine!

Monday, April 30, 2012

The Scarlet Pimpernel

Once upon a time, in high school, I took some English classes. In those English classes, we were assigned novels to read. Fairly standard, right? Well, I don't know why, but that just seemed to be a killjoy for me. It sucked the fun out of reading an otherwise fabulous novel. I struggled with keeping a deadline and was frustrated with being asked to find certain things within a novel. I didn't like being told to read something. But that's kinda the point of an English class, isn't it?

Now, I know that if my husband is reading this, he's probably cringing horribly. He happens to be an English teacher. For that, I apologize. I am not saying that I did not like English. In fact it was one of my favorite subjects in school. And most of what I read, if I jumped right in, I enjoyed. Many of the assigned books, I bought, and have read again later. There are books that I am glad to have been exposed to. It opened the door to more literature and created deeper thinking. In fact I really enjoyed the discussion of the books, and was glad to hear the perspective of other readers. (So, what was my problem? I don't know. I was a dumb teenager.)

I've missed being able to have that discussion. Last year, I read so much (about 4 books per month), but didn't have anyone to discuss it with, because no one was reading what I was. So, I decided to create my own book club. I'd still get to pick what I wanted to read, and have an outlet for the discussion. Great idea, right? The problem is, I've gone and done what seemed to make it difficult for me to keep up my reading while in school. There was this weight hanging over my head that said that I needed to finish because of my blog. And that was somehow unappealing. So, instead, I didn't read.

Then, after a short update on my lack of reading, I got a message from Carrie, who said she'd started The Scarlet Pimpernel and was really enjoying it. And it reminded me of why I wanted to read it in the first place. Because it's so fun! That day, I promptly picked up my copy again, and flipped back a few pages (to refresh my memory) and moved forward. I have since finished the book and am ready for some kind of report here. If you didn't read it, but intend to, you may want to skip the rest of this post.

The Scarlet Pimpernel, by the Baroness Orczy, is a tale of the master of disguises. In France, the aristocrats no longer garner the respect that they once had, merely because of their family history. The common people will not be ruled over and oppressed any longer. In fact, the people are so loathe toward the upper classes that any who are caught in any sort of scandal are immediately, and without trial, sent to the guillotine. Simply being a descendant is often enough of a crime.

In England, however, this is deemed cruel and uncalled for. The French "aristos" had made attempts at escaping the borders on their own, but for many this proved fatal. Once over the border, they were free live in England. But the borders were heavily guarded, allowing for no one who was of the upper classes to pass through. Here is where we hear of the Scarlet Pimpernel. He is a man with a band of followers (known as the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel) determined to set free the French and deliver them safely to England. No one knows who this man is, because no one has seen his true character. He is always heavily disguised, and after he is allowed to pass, there is often a note found, bearing the stamp of a red 5-pointed flower--the scarlet pimpernel. He and his band allude everyone and there are many angry French who are determined to stop him.

Sir Percy is such a complex character. He has to live a lie to protect himself and the people is is saving. Why go to all the trouble? In my book, one of the questions in the bonus section compares the Scarlet Pimpernel to Superman. I kind of like this comparison. Clark Kent is a fake. His true identity is one that must be protected so that he can continue to do the right thing when the need arises. Now, obviously Sir Percy has no super powers. His would be that of his intellect, which he hides behind slowness and eccentricity. Why go to all the trouble? His life is essentially a lie, too. He doesn't even confide in his wife, who may truly love him if they can only communicate.

Is there a reason to hide behind the goodness that you do? I suppose it could mean his death if he is discovered. But then, why go to the trouble of helping these people if it could mean your own life? How much helping is too much? And when do you discover that your 'calling' in life is one of such danger? Wouldn't it be easier to just stay home and be your clever self for all to see? I suppose, for Percy, the lives of others should not be sacrificed in such a cruel manner. He finds his own worth at least that of those he can save, and so chooses to do all he can at rescuing as many as possible.

Sir Percy's "Lex Luther" is Monsieur Chauvelin. He is a French man who is determined to hunt down the Scarlet Pimpernel and bring him to an end. Chauvelin discovers two men from the League and takes all the papers they are carrying. Among them happens to be a letter detailing a rescue and including the name of Lady Blakeney's brother, Armand St. Just. He is now going to use this information as blackmail to get Lady Blakeney to help him discover the Scarlet Pimpernel. If she doesn't help, her brother will be killed.

Now, having been familiar with the story before reading it, I knew her husband was the man she was trying to trap. But my heart ached with hers as Lady Blakeney realized who Sir Percy really was, and that her husband was truly a man to be loved, and that she did love him. She was suddenly under this realization that he was suddenly sent to his death on her doing. All unintentional, but still her fault. What is remarkable is that upon finding out who he is, she is thrilled and her love is realized. I can't help but wonder, if Percy had not been in danger when she discovered his secret, would she have been angry rather than filled with a love for him? She put the Scarlet Pimpernel on some sort of pedestal, idolized him, while loathing her husband and his every move. Upon finding them one and the same, why isn't there a hurt or anger because she wasn't confided in? I suppose it is the realization of his cause and her past that allows for understanding in why he couldn't tell. She did denounce the Marquis de St Cyr, which meant, of course, the guillotine. If she was capable of this in a mere snide comment, the entrusting her with his identity could prove fatal. Perhaps Lady Blakeney understood this.

I love the fantastic diguises used in the book. The last chapters, where Lady Blakeney has followed Chauvelin up a hill in order to try and save Percy were quite suspenseful. This scene was different from the musical (and it's been almost 2 years since I saw it) and so I didn't know how it would turn out. As different unfamiliar characters were introduced, I tried to figure out where Percy could be. I wondered if somehow he could be among the guards. And I wondered if Sir Andrew was playing a part, too. What of this old Jew? I was pleasantly surprised to find out where Percy had been hiding, in plain sight all along. The best scene, however, was when Percy enters the run down inn and meets Chauvelin there. He simply acts as if he always arrives there to have dinner and a man who may be an enemy is never a surprise. There is a dedication to creating a character and never breaking from him. Percy never even shows surprise or alarm when encountering Chauvelin. It's a simple, "How do you do, yep, I've just stopped out in France for dinner in a disgusting tavern."

There are nine sequels written by Baroness Orczy (plus several "spin-offs" and 2 collections of short stories featuring the Scarlet Pimpernel), although I think I will just stick with the one. The popularity of the story is spread through film and stage and has managed to last 107 years in print, in at least 16 languages. Certainly a classic that I am glad to have on my shelf.

"We seek him here, we seek him there,
Those Frenchies seek him everywhere.
Is he in heaven?--Is he in hell?
That demmed; elusive Pimpernel?"

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

ThePianoGuys: Me & My Cello

I got a concerned phone call from my "Anonymous" reader today, wondering if I'm doing alright. (Don't worry, I know who he is.) You see, I have't posted since Friday the 13th. Which seems a little ominous, don't you think? I've dissappeared from the "blogosphere" and the last I was seen was a day full of superstition. Rest assured, everything is great. I think I may have just needed a break. I have been online to check for comments and to read some of the blogs I follow. I just didn't have anything to say here. And since I didn't have any music scheduled, my blog came out looking neglected.

For those of you (perhaps one of you?) are trying to be a part of my book club, have no fear, I have brushed aside the lack of desire (gasp!) to read and have picked up The Scarlet Pimpernel. Again. I'm not sure what was stopping me, because it is a fun story. Whatever the problem was, it has passed and I am nearly finished reading. (Some book club host I am!) Look for my post in the coming week. I hope.

The video for today is fantastic. I laughed out loud. For most of my readers, it will be a repeat, however because my sister posted it on her blog a few weeks ago. But it is so funny. And the music is great, too. So, I had to share with the few readers (two?) who do not read Such a Sew and Sew. And if you've seen it, you may decide whether you like it well enough to watch again. Obviously, I did, so here it is.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Bradbury Friday: Dark They Were, and Golden-Eyed

What better day to end my Bradbury 13 series, than on Friday the 13th! Saving the best for last, I am pleased to share Dark They Were, and Golden-Eyed. Found in S is for Space and The Day it Rained Forever, Dark They Were, and Golden-Eyed is my favorite of the Bradbury 13 series. Always my first choice, and for me, one of the most fantastic stories. There is a bit of wonder and imagination that just grabs me here.

The Bittering family has just landed on Mars. Harry, his wife, Cora, and their three children, Dan, Laura, and David, have come to Mars to escape the wars. The atom bombs are threatening, and they want to be away until they it is safe to return again to Earth. But the moment Harry steps out of the rocket, he wants to turn back. There is just something about the planet, its air, the wind, that frightens him. But Cora insists they stay, having traveled over sixty million miles.

So, they stay. They build a home, plant a garden and go about their lives. But Harry is always on edge, worried about the air or the sounds, the memories in the old Martian ruins. The garden doesn't seem to bring the vegetables that he remembers from earth, even though they are earth seeds. Things just don't seem right. He is tense, worried that something is going to happen.

And something does happen. The radio sends up word that the Atom bombs have hit New York, and all the space rockets are gone, blown up. One thousand Earth people, gone to be safe on Mars are all now stranded.

The one hope Harry had, that the rockets would come and he could return to Earth with his family, is gone. They are stranded on this strange planet with the few hundred other people who came to Mars to wait out the war. Harry will not be stranded. This cannot be final. So, he goes into town to urge the other men to help him build a rocket. No one feels his urgency. Sam, a friend, tells Harry he has rocket blue prints and a load of metal. Harry is welcome to it. But no one is eager to help. He works alone, the men standing in the doorway, helping Harry lift something heavy every now and then. But no one is worried about a rush to go home.

As the summer comes in, and it gets hot, the town has decided to move up to the old Martian villas where it is cooler. What's a man to do? Harry has to build his rocket, but no one will help, and now they're all leaving town. Is life really that bad on Mars? Or is it just a perception that Harry needs to let go of? People seem happy. The town is peaceful. There's no hostility.

What would you do? The story has a fantastic turn of events and an even better ending. I love to contemplate the way this works. Many of Bradbury's stories have people who have moved to Mars or are out searching other planets for something better. And it always brings to my mind the question of what would we do if earth really got so bad? Would we run away from it? Where would we go? If there was another planet, would we try to attempt a better life there? Would it be peaceful and calm? Or would there be someone who would try to rule, form government, instead of just living in peace and order without reinforcements? Is that life possible? Wouldn't the folks who made the earth unlivable just jump in their own rocket and create the same chaos that they left behind? Not all of Bradbury's tales about people on Mars are peaceful. Some have destruction, some with unexpected results, (Read the Martian Chronicles, you'll see my point) but many of his characters do find a better life.

If there is only one Bradbury 13 story that you read, make it Dark They Were and Golden Eyed. Don't forget the audio version available on I hope you enjoy it.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

ThePianoGuys: Without You

I picked this because the other day, this song, by Usher was on the radio, and my son said, "Hey, I love this song! PianoGuys does this one!" I couldn't remember if I'd even seen it (my Dad shows them videos when we go to my parents' house), so I had to find it.  Please enjoy.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Bradbury Friday: The Screaming Woman

This story is my second favorite in the Bradbury 13 series. The Screaming Woman, found in S is for Space (and The Stories of Ray Bradbury), is one part scary, one part frustration and anxiety.

This story is narrated by ten-year-old Margaret Leary. One hot July Saturday, her mother asks Margaret to run to the store to get some ice cream for lunch. She takes a short cut through the empty lot behind her house. On her way back through the lot with the ice cream, Margaret hears the Screaming Woman.

"It was coming up out of the ground. A woman was buried under the rocks and dirt and glass, and she was screaming, all wild and horrible, for someone to dig her out. I just stood there, afraid. She kept screaming, muffled. Then I started to run. I fell down, got up, and ran some more. I got in the screen door of my house and there was Mama, calm as you please, not knowing what I knew, that there was a real live woman buried out in back of our house, just a hundred yards away, screaming bloody murder."

But no one will believe a ten-year-old's wild story of a woman buried alive in the empty lot. But she heard it! And Margaret is determined to make someone listen; to save this Screaming Woman.

I love the narration of this story. It just flows, and you just want to reach in and shake those grown-ups. 'Listen to her!' This story pulls you in, and won't let go until you reach the end. The radio drama (on is excellent, following very closely to the original.  This story was also done on Ray Bradbury Theater in 1986, and stars Drew Barrymore. It is posted on YouTube in 3 parts. (Search Ray Bradbury Theater: The Screaming Woman) Some of the details have been changed from the original, but it's pretty good, too.

Please enjoy. It's one of the best of the Bradbury 13.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

ThePianoGuys: Nearer My God, to Thee

Between LDS General Conference and Easter Sunday, I thought this selection to be appropriate.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A Completed Project

Here is the big reveal. Our bathroom project is (nearly) finished! Okay, so we still didn't get a towel rod. But a towel rod is boring blogging. What I am going to share with you has actually been finished for about a week and a half now, but I suppose I figured the towel bar would have been installed by now. But to install one, you have to buy one. And I just haven't done that yet.

So, here they are: our beautiful bathroom cabinet and lights! (And a monkey shower curtain-only slightly less new.) A bathroom is the Worst place to take pictures, the room just doesn't allow you the appropriate space to get the shot. But here they are. And they didn't get there as easily as one might expect.

Remember the old light/cabinet? Right. The one with the lights IN the cabinet, making a quick change-out impossible? That's right. So, I enlisted (thank you!!) the help of my Dad, the expert on EVERYTHING. He came and removed the old cabinet and light fixture. Guess what he found under them? An electrician's WORST NIGHTMARE. The wires were spliced and bare and scary and I don't even know what else. Plus, behind the cabinet was a gigantic hole where an old medicine cabinet had been recessed in the wall. AND the wires were not even in a ready box. The original ready box was about 6 inches or more above the spot where the wires were.

So, after two evenings of amazing electrical work, (my Dad even put in a new electrical outlet. The old one was connected to the light fixture. Weird?) plus some drywall patching and spackling, I painted the repaired wall, and my Dad came back on Saturday to hang everything. And I could not be happier. It makes my bathroom new and nice and feel bigger (a mirror will do that) and awesome. My boys said it looked like a hotel bathroom. I suppose that's a compliment. Now, to find a towel bar....

Monday, April 2, 2012

Conference Coloring

For LDS General Conference, we sit for four 2-hour sessions (over 2 days) to hear the General Authourities of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints speak to us. For two young children to sit quietly, is sometimes difficult. So, I prepare them with things like "Conference Squares"-- a bingo type game where they listen for different words or topics and cover the squares on their game boards. ( has seven different game boards for Conference Squares to print out!) I also print out a few coloring pages, some with color by number and some just coloring pages (also available at

My oldest son finished his coloring pages at the end of the 3rd session. So, instead of asking for more coloring pages, he found some blank paper, and drew pictures of his own, like he does during our weekly Sunday Sacrament Meeting. But this time, instead of just drawing whatever comes to him, he decided to draw the speakers. He didn't get all of them, but the few he did were pretty neat. He studied the speaker and then carefully drew what he saw. I thought I'd share 3 of his drawings.

Elder Russell M. Nelson
Sister Julie B. Beck
President Thomas S. Monson

While there is always a moment when you need to remind them to quiet down, my kids did pretty good this General Conference. And I was grateful to hear the Prophet and the Apostles speak.