"Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of. but do it in private
and wash your hands afterwards." --Robert Heinlein.

We've moved!

For the next two years (Summer 2014-Summer 2016) I'll be blogging our family's adventures in China at www.chinesemileposts.wordpress.com

Thursday, December 31, 2009


I'm not one for making New Year's Resolutions. Jed is. I can see the usefulness of them, I just never wanted to jump on the same bandwagon as everyone else. That probably doesn't make sense, it's a mentality left over from being a good kid. I wasn't going to be rebellious about the big stuff, so I picked little stuff to rebel against. I never dieted. I never make New Year's Resolutions. I picked the non-important stuff on which to stage my rebellions. Jed is making our whole family make New Year's Resolutions this year. While this task is proving difficult for me, I'm having a super easy time coming up with New Year's Resolutions for my kids.

Do you make resolutions each new year?

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Reading List 2009

There's always that chance that I'll read another book before tomorrow at midnight, but I've already hit 20,000 for the year, so I'm not pushing it. So, with no further waiting, here's the list of all the books I read (all the way to the end) in 2009.

1001 Cranes
Secrets of my Hollywood Life: On Location
Footfree and Fancy Loose
Secrets of my Hollywood Life: Family Affairs
Paper Towns
Walk Two Moons
The Memory Keeper's Daughter
Absolutely Normal Chaos
The Cat Who Got Carried Away
Tales of a Female Nomad: ...
Evil Genius
3 Willows: the sisterhood grows
The Whole Sky Full of Stars
13 Little Blue Envelopes
Parties and Potions
A Corner of the Universe
Look Again
Make Lemonade
(2nd time)
True Believer
I, Lorelei
Leap Day
Looking for Alaska
My Antonia (2nd time)
Thanks for the Memories
This Full House
11 Birthdays
One Whole and Perfect Day
Don't Judge a Girl By Her Cover
Along for the Ride
The Book Thief
The Housekeeper and the Professor
Rapunzel's Revenge
Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued About
The Actor and the Housewife
An Abundance of Katherines
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
(3rd time)
I Capture the Castle
Every Soul a Star
The Castle Corona
Cinderella (as if you didn't already know the story)
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
The Time Traveler's Wife
The Glass Lake
The Lost Symbol
Secrets of my Hollywood Life: Paparazzi Princess
Julie and Julia:
The Princess Bride
Are These My Basoomas I See Before Me?
Sleepaway Girls
The Princess Present #6.5
Party Princess # 7
Al Capone Shines My Shoes
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
(2nd time)
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily
Ella Enchanted
Dairy Queen
The Off Season
The Girl Who Threw Butterflies
Jellicoe Road
Front and Center
Sweet Sixteen Princess: #7.5
(2nd time, accidentally)
Princess on the Brink
Honey, Baby, Sweetheart
The Juliet Club


My brother and sister don't really get along with each other. When Jed was talking to my mom on his birthday, she mentioned that she'd threatened them to get along this Christmas or she'd spend next Christmas with us in Virginia. I joked with Jed we should start pitting my siblings against each other, spread rumors, etc. I won't, but I thought that was pretty funny.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Our Christmas tree made it through a month of being up with Baby X only occasionally touching ornaments on it. Then last night he knocked the entire tree over. At least we can just take it down now rather than having to put all the ornaments back on nicely and watch him do it again. Although, more likely, it's going to stay up like this (crooked ornaments and a now, broken strand of lights) for a few more days (...weeks?).

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Happy Birthday!

Today is Jed's birthday. I won't tell you what year he's turning, because that'll give hints to my true age, and I decided that I'm just going to keep celebrating my 29th birthday until I'm a cool number, like 90.

Jed's birthday being two days after Christmas means that all of a sudden, Christmas night, I remember a present I bought that Jed didn't open. Seconds before I dig it out from the messy closet hiding place, I realize that he hasn't opened it because I set it aside as a birthday present and I sigh in relief.

Having his birthday so close to Christmas also means that around July, I've found an awesome present to buy him and I have to wait 5 months for an excuse to buy it. Thank goodness for our anniversary in April and Father's Day in June or I'd go nuts hoarding away presents for 11 months and not being able to find them when Christmas and his birthday roll around.

All of that being said, I have a great husband and I'm giving him a shout out, old school, MTV TRL style, on his 29th *wink* birthday.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Read too much?

I just asked Jed how to spell Impatiens*, like the flower. I assumed there was a T on the end. There isn't. He then asked, what about the flower spelled "P-E-O-N-Y? How would you say that?" And I wasn't quite sure. His response, "It's in books a lot." This reminded me of a relative who will remain unnamed, who, for a long time thought the word "Voila" (pronounced "vwa-'la") was pronounced "VOY-la", similar to viola, but with a "VOY" instead of a "VI." I think it's safe to say that Jed, myself, and the unnamed family member, all read too much.

*I realize this is actually a pronunciation mistake, not a reading mistake. But I read quickly and probably just imagine there is a T there so the word is more familiar looking.

Dateline: Later tonight

I just read part off a wikipedia page to Jed and said, "PIE-lAtes" instead of "
pi-lah-teez." See, I read too much, and don't actually know anyone, or discuss with them, anything to do with pilates.

Present Time!

Princess Sparkley on Christmas Eve
with Webkinz Zumbuddy

Buddy on Christmas Eve
with Webkinz Owl (he named Lionel)

Baby X Christmas morning
with Elmo
(this Elmo was given to me for Valentine's Day from Jed in high school)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Stockings were hung by the chimney (or stairs) with care...

Marta has a much more thorough list of great stocking stuff ideas, but this is what we ususally find in our stockings.

My stocking when I was little:
  • an orange
  • a VHS blank tape
  • pens
  • gum
  • orange Tic Tacs
  • Lifesavers book
  • Reese's Peanut Butter Cups
  • mini flashlight
  • breathmints
Our stockings this year will probably include (+/-):
  • A clementine
  • Lip smackers
  • quarters
  • Vanilla Midgee Tootsie Rolls
  • gum
  • Cadbury balls
  • Reeses's Pieces
  • Hershey's Cookies and Cream bars*
  • A Webkinz keychain animal
  • fun socks
  • a new toothbrush
  • a shower Loofah
  • little Lego sets
  • Target Gift Coins
  • brand new box of crayons
  • chapter books
  • Matchbox cars and airplanes
  • Polly pocket
  • Little Pet Shop pet

* My kids discovered these recently and LOVE them.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Ghosts of Christmas Past

Click here for my Christmas menu from past years as well as the recipe for my Mom's Peppermint Ice Cream Pie.

Click here for my favorite Christmas books.

Click here and here for Christmas goodies.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Easy Holiday Treat

Marbled Chocolate Treats

These look really fancy, but are super simple to make. Find the recipe here.*

*The Kraft Foods link stopped working, but I found the recipe elsewhere for you all.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Snowed In

We were supposed to go somewhere today, but does our car look like it's going anywhere?

Do you like the new look of our backyard? We probably got a foot and a half of snow, but between the fences and the house, there were a lot of snow drifts and the backyard has parts that were closer to 3 feet deep.

Past Reading Totals

In years past, here are my book and page totals for reading.

2008: 18,026 pages in 61 books

2007: 8,669 pages in 27 books

2006: 22,027 pages in 74 books

2005: 14, 366 pages in 47 books

2004: 9,140 pages in 29 books

2003: 7,923 pages in 25 books

2002: 7,810 pages in 26 books

2001: 4,979 pages in 21 books

2000: 5,407 pages in 18 books*

Interesting things I can tell from this list:
  • At the end of 2005 we moved to Kansas and gave up cable tv.
  • In 2007 we discovered checking out TV shows on dvd from the library.

*estimate... I didn't start trying to figure it out until October of this year so I just guessed at to which books I'd read during the earlier parts of the year.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Planned Reading

For those of you paying attention to my sidebar, I'm on a quest to read 20,000 pages this year. I have blogged about my reading here and lots of other little mentions. But basically, Jed and I both read a lot. His sister likes to picture our marriage as the two of us laying around on the couch reading books together, this isn't too far from the truth. When we got married I found out that Jed kept track of all the books he's read. For someone who enjoys making lists (me) and reads so much that sometimes she forgets whether or not she's actually read a book (me) this seemed like a fabulous idea. And so the book lists began. We only count pages we've read (so, if I happen to read a book with an introduction, I have to read it to count those pages, etc.) And we have to have finished the entire book in order to count it for our reading totals.

This year, I'm at 19,626 pages in 66 books. Once the year is over, I'll do a more thourough breakdown of how much nonfiction (possibly none), young adult fiction (probably most of it), etc. that I read during the year. But for now, I need about 400 more pages. The book I'm currently reading has just over 300, so I end up being about 60 pages short. The books I have on the bookshelf from my bed to chose from next are:

Flush by Carl Hiiassen

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

The Patron Saint of Liars
by Ann Patchett

Oh... and I just remembered the kids and I are a few chapters into The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo. Awesome. If I just finish that book, and the one I'm reading on my own, I'll pass 20,000 for the year.

Um.... yum!

I've borrowed this image until I make my own... which I'm thinking should be soon.*

This easy holiday treat recipe from here makes me happy that I've recently acquired a taste for pecans. Thanks, Rae, for Facebooking** this recipe.

Now that I've made them, can I just add that these are the PERFECT treats for your kids to be totally in charge of. They lay out all the pretzels, unwrap all the Rolos (since I certainly don't want to) and put them on the pretzels. I put them in the oven for 4 minutes. And then the kids squished the pecans on top. And we all ate a TON!

*I've now used my own images.
**Gotta love how the English language evolves.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Petunia's Christmas

I found this book, Petunia's Christmas by Roger Duvoisin, at the library the other day and immediately checked it out so I could relive my childhood. I LOVED this book when I was little. Conveniently I then came across this blog post with a craft to accompany the story. Here's the end result at our house:

by Buddy (but mostly me)

by Princess Sparkley

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


I've been thinking about my last post and I guess part of the reason I respond quickly to emails and phone calls is because I'm dependable. This isn't a bad thing, but when it was the nicest thing teachers and church leaders had to say about me in my teenage years, it became a compliment that I didn't like. I always heard how dependable and how responsible I was. No teenager wants to be dependable and responsible. Isn't it a teenager's right not to be? Yet I was, and still am. I guess it's not so bad having those two words as description of yourself... it could be worse.

Monday, December 14, 2009


When I was in high school I worked at my brother's law firm. During the day while I was at school, phone calls would come in for me and when I came into the office I was expected to return them. My brother sat me down and explained to me that I had to be professional and to be professional, I needed to return these phone calls promptly. I hated this. Jed and my family especially know how much I hate talking on the phone, returning phone calls, ordering pizza, etc. I really should use this feature, but I don't necessarily want people to call me back either. Basically, unless it's family wanting to chat, it's someone wanting me to do something. Right?* But if someone calls and leaves me a message, I return the phone call... promptly. Within 24 hours promptly.

Now that you know this about me, you can rightly assume that I love email. You can also take a wild guess and be right, that I check my email dozens of times a day. Due to this craziness in myself, I have a hard time understanding people who don't check their email often. Especially people under 50 years old. I also get extremely annoyed when people don't respond back to my email questions promptly. Partially, because it shows respect and good etiquette to respond quickly. And partially, (maybe mainly) because I don't want to have to call you.

Am I the only person like this? Do other people hate the phone? Love email? Demand prompt responses to either??

*My parents didn't get an answering machine until just a few years ago because they figured if people needed to talk to them, they'd call back. If they were just asking them to do something, they'd find someone else. And they didn't want people leaving messages assuming they'd do something that they hadn't agreed to do.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Cut-out snowflakes


My mom taught kindergarten and first grade for many years. She was always very adamant that when her class cut out snow flakes, they made them correctly. This means the snowflakes had six sides, not just a rectangle of paper with holes cut out of it. Here's a site that shows you just how fold your paper so you get the six sided snowflake.

  • Coffee filters are much easier to cut (especially for little hands) than regular printer paper or construction paper.
  • Spray glue and glitter make this craft especially sparkley.

*Sorry, I didn't think to take pictures until after I'd already taped them to our door.

And the Winner* is...

of Miss Jill's 8 Million Random Strangers blog

Jill, congratulations and send me a message at: writingfishbowl@gmail.com with your address.

For those of you who didn't win**... here's the recipe for my*** candy cane bark.

*Winner was chosen at random, sort of... if you live out of the country, you were eliminated (sorry, I just don't know if Candy Cane Bark can survive that sort of travel, and I didn't want to spend a billion dollars on shipping). I cut out your tiny little Followers pictures (except foreigners) and PS drew one out of a bowl.

**Jed, you'll get to eat some when I make it so stop complaining that you'll never enter my contests again and that you'll stop following me. H.P., I'll bring some when we come to celebrate Christmas.

***Don't you just love how you can adopt someone else's recipe as your own. Some lady, I think named Jeanette, used to bring this to everyone in the office each Christmas when Jed was working in California. He LOVED it and asked for the recipe. Now I claim it as my own. The easy mint fudge recipe that is also featured on the above recipe link, I've only made maybe three times. I have a friend who now makes it all the time, I told her she can start calling it her mint fudge, not mine since I'm fairly certain she's now made it more times than I have. I'm not even going to go into my cousin's wife's creamed corn recipe that is now famous as my creamed corn recipe at my husband's family's holiday gatherings.


On TLC's What Not To Wear, Stacy and Clinton are always saying to buy nice clothes, but then to have them tailored to your body. This obviously makes sense and I can look at my wardrobe and tell you exactly what needs to be done to each item. The problem is, I don't have the skills needed to do it myself. I don't have the money to pay someone, nor are my clothes expensive enough to warrant tailoring. Can you imagine, "Can you shorten these jeans I bought at Old Navy for $15? ... $25, okay, thanks." (Although, I have learned to hem pants decently.)

It would be awesome to have unlimited funds with which to buy an entirely new wardrobe, plus having that entirely new wardrobe either fit me properly, or be tailored so that it did. But, that's not in the cards. I don't actually know anyone who has their clothes tailored, (readers, surprise me) so it seems that it will never be in the cards.

Throw into this mix that I'm an average sized person. I am 5 foot 6. I have friends that are close to 6 feet tall and I have friends that are barely over 5 feet tall. It is them who I imagine would have the hardest time finding clothes that fit their body perfectly. Yet I have a closet full of pants that are a tad to short, or pants that I've had to hem up slightly so the cuff doesn't drag on the ground. I am long waisted, making bathing suit shopping a nightmare, and no shirt is long enough for me. I just pulled out all of my winter sweaters and I feel ridiculous in them because they are way too short for my body. Maybe I can learn to knit and add a few inches to the bottom.

I've been daydreaming about having my wardrobe (a brand new one, mind you, this is a daydream) tailored but it all became more obvious how much better clothes sewed especially for you fit this week. A Christmas dress that my mother-in-law sewed for my daughter arrived in the mail on Tuesday. Princess Sparkley tried it on and I was amazed at how perfectly it fit her. She's a tall, very skinny seven year old. I hadn't realized how wide all of her store bought dresses were on her body until I saw this one zip up, made to fit the skinny pole that she is.

Now if you don't mind, I'll just keep dreaming about that new wardrobe.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Observations on a Virginia Winter

All of these observations may seem weird coming from a California girl who once used a spatula to scrape the ice off of her windshield so she could drive to early morning seminary,* but we had our first Virginia snow this weekend and I was surprised by a lot of what I saw. Moving here, we were hoping for less ice than Kansas, and not so many days when the temperature was below zero, but everyone here assured us that it still snows and gets icy and is cold. Then it didn't snow and didn't snow and I became hopeful that it never would. Until Saturday, when it snowed all day.

Some of the crazy stuff I saw:

People here stick their windshield wipes up in the air while their cars are parked. I assume this is so the windshield wipers won't freeze to the windshield, which happened to us a lot in Kansas. But I never witnessed this way of dealing with it in Kansas.

I saw someone shoveling in front of their house with a real shovel, not a snow shovel. If it does indeed snow here in the winter, often, why don't people own snow shovels?

I saw another person brushing snow off their windshield with a broom. Again, if it does in fact snow here a lot, how do they not own a scraper with a brush attachment? My spatula experience in high school is understandable because one, I didn't even know a thing such as a snow scraper existed, and two, I'm pretty sure there was no store near my home that sold them.

They don't sprinkle salt on sidewalks and on the road here, they sprinkle sand. Jed informed me this is the cheap, not as effective way of taking care of slick roads and sidewalks. This is not good news since the driving in our town is already horrible.

So after this weekend, and almost four years of living in Kansas, I feel like I am a winter expert and these people in Virginia don't know what winter is. But here's the thing, I'm still going to stock up on milk and diapers and not leave my house until the snow melts away. So I guess Kansas didn't really teach me anything other than it's possible to survive a few days snowed in until it all melts away.

*weekday, Sunday school type classes for high schoolers who are lds.

Monday, December 07, 2009


One of the problems with homeschooling is that I get totally burnt out on school right about now. Taking three days off for Thanksgiving did me in. Now I have no desire to continue. And that was only three days. I'm fearful of what the Christmas break (or Winter Break if we were enrolled in a public school) will do to me. As it is now, I just want to sit around and read all day, experiment with yummy new recipes for dinner, shop online for Christmas presents, and nap. At least Buddy is entering a unit on the Calendar today. Teaching days and months is much more fun that teaching about consonant blends... bleh.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

Princess Sparkley is a bit like Fancy Nancy, in that, she is horribly disappointed with how not fancy the rest of her family is. These sentiments are even stronger during the time leading up to Christmas. We aren't festive enough for her. If PS had it her way, we'd start playing Christmas music in July. This year, we gave in to her begging and put up our Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving.

And today, an answer to all of her dreams come true, she woke up to snow.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Christmas Shopping

I loved when my kids were all so little that I could get all of my Christmas shopping done with them in tow. As a homeschooler, my kids never graduated to going to school all day so I could shop while they were gone. This makes things a bit more difficult. Especially since Princess Sparkley can't know what Buddy's getting (because she either rubs it in, is getting a similar item herself, has Buddy begging to know or wants to give him clues and the clues are WAY too obvious) and Buddy can't know what she's getting for about the same reasons. I've therefore only bought Baby X's Christmas presents (with the added bonus that he's not yet two, so what does he really need).

Today I bought some fabric to make an apron for PS. She doesn't know that's why I was buying the fabric. She's of course suspicious because I asked her opinion and I told her it was a secret. But I'm fairly certain she has no clue I'm making an apron. I like these kinds of presents, the ones that are right in front of her, but still undisclosed.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009



As a ploy to get more Followers (so I can imagine myself cooler), all you have to do to enter the contest is become a "Follower" of my blog (look over in the sort of top part of the right column). Those of you who are already Followers, are already entered.


Contest ends: December 10, 2009 at midnight EST

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Book Reports: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

buy it here, it's only $5.50 right now

I think I may have a new favorite book. If it's not number one, it's very very close to the top of my imaginary list.

Set just after World War II has ended, the main character is Juliet, a writer made famous by a war time column she wrote. Juliet receives a letter from Guernsey, an island in the Channel Islands between France and England that was occupied by the Germans during the war. The letter comes from a stranger named Dawsey asking her about a book he bought secondhand that had her name in it, wondering if there were more books by this writer. He briefly mentioned the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, but it was enough to grab Juliet's attention. When she writes him back, she asks him about the Society.

Juliet begins exchanging letters with Dawsey, along with other members of the Society and through these letters, their story of the German Occupation unfolds. Juliet comes to love and cherish these people, and them her. In the second part of the book, she travels to Guernsey with the idea that her next book will be about their reading society and the Occupation.

The book is told entirely in letters between Juliet, the islanders, and Juliet's London friends. I have a soft spot for epistolary books. This book was wonderful. Plus, Princess Sparkley was very excited because one of the two authors, Annie Barrows, writes the Ivy and Bean books that she loves. The other author is Barrows's aunt who became ill and was lucky enough to have another writer in the family who could help her finish up the book.

New Obsession

image from here

When I was a little girl, my sister's friend collected pigs. Every time her birthday rolled around, my mom, sister and I would go on a wild hunt for pig related stuff to get her. I always thought this was all a bit crazy. I mean, I go wild about kitchen gadgets, but not pigs. That was until I saw all the cute owl stuff that is out and about right now.

Is it too late to start collecting owl stuff? Maybe if everyone I knew sent me something owl related, I would have a decent collection... immediately.

My obsession started when I saw cute little girl pajamas with owls on them. Then I saw the most adorable owl fabric at the fabric store. It culminated when I saw an adorable little owl bag at Borders (I may have to browse Borders with Princess Sparkley and let her know how much I love it and would love to get it for Christmas). Do I need it? No. What would I use it for? I don't know. But it's adorable and it's a bag. Where can I go wrong?

Just go to Etsy and search for owl and see all the wonderful owl stuff they have. I am in love with it all.
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