"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

Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 Reading Goals

I did it!  This has been my best year so far for number of books and number of pages read.  100 books.  32,379 pages.  Both numbers far surpass any other year total.  I didn't reach this goal.  And I probably read 85% young adult books, but I should probably just accept that that's how my reading list looks every year.  :)

You can see all the books I read this year here: http://www.goodreads.com/user_challenges/26010

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Reading Goal

Goodreads asked people to set reading goals for 2011.  I decided on 75 books, a number I'd never reached but to which I had come fairly close. I far surpassed that goal, as well as my individual goal of pages read (I'm over 30,000 pages which is about 7,000 pages more than I've ever managed in a year before).  And I'm at 97 books.  97!  I should go for 100, right?  The kids and I are finishing up Peter and Starcatchers with only about 26 pages to go.  That's 98.  Then I'll read them this quick chapter book (we've read the other two in the series in the past).  99. Here's my problem, book 100.  I'm reading The Elegance of the Hedgehog and it's killing me.  K-I-L-L-I-N-G M-E.  The premise is nice, but I seriously feel like this book is WAY above my reading level.  I keep wishing I was reading it on the Kindle where it's easy to look up the definitions of words I don't understand.  Plus, the book is set in France and was translated from French so there are a lot of French words.  I took Spanish in high school and college.  Add that the two main characters are supposedly brilliant thinkers and I'm lost.  I get the plot, and so far that's pretty boring.  But I have to finish!  One hundred books is in my sight...

Saturday, December 24, 2011


We open family presents on Christmas Eve.  All week month the kids have been debating back and forth which present they will open first.  Princess Sparkley bargains with Buddy, "I'll open your present first if you open mine first."  Etc.  In the middle of all of this, the 3 year old simplifies it for us all, "I'm opening all of my presents first." 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Menu before Christmas menu

I'm trying out some recipes I found on Pinterest this week:

Tuesday: South of the Border Sandwiches

Wednesday: Philly Cheesesteak Sloppy Joes

Thursday: Mexican Chicken Casserole

Love the idea...

I love the idea of this beautiful layered cake from Bakingdom.com, but I don't have the patience or talent to pull off something this beautiful and ... awesome.  Very cool though.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmasy Menus

     My family started the Christmas tradition of eating tamales on Christmas Eve several years ago.  Something to do with living in southern California and the heavy Hispanic influence there.  I think my mom started considering it sometime when I was in high school when she noticed that our favorite local Mexican food restaurant started taking tamale orders in November.  She signed up.  Then later, my brother-in-law decided he'd learn to make tamales and has taken over the tradition ever since.  Jed and I sort of broke free from this tradition when we were living in California, as well as my entire family, and his parents.  We decided to adopt the tradition of eating out at a Chinese restaurant on Christmas Eve so that our little family had family time rather than always having to be at someone else's house doing something else for the holidays.  We still do that today, but I love tamales.  So tamales have become our Christmas Eve Eve meal.
     I like the idea of making my own tamales, but that scares me a little.  And I like the idea of tracking down some awesome Mexican restaurant in town that would sell me tamales, but I haven't done that either.  Usually I just buy frozen tamales and fancy them up with chili, cheese, sour cream and salsa. 

     On Christmas Eve, like I said, we go out for Chinese food.  This year I've been toying around with the idea of making our own Chinese food.  I'm still undecided.  But I've come up with an extensive menu for if I do stay home (and if I had an army to feed).  The problem is that going out, you are able to order four or five main dishes and I'm not sure that's something I'd be capable of pulling off at home on my own.  Especially when there are only five of us to eat it all.

    Here's my idea for a menu to feed a crowd homemade Chinese food:
Crab Rangoon dip
Crockpot Teriyaki Chicken
Orange Chicken (or this recipe that I've tried before)
Pioneer Woman's Spring Rolls (but chicken, not turkey)
PF Chang's Mongolian Beef
Fried Rice (minus the chicken)
Egg Rolls (I'd probably just buy them frozen, but maybe try the linked to recipe...)

But that all seems like a ton of work... maybe we should just go out.  :)  Besides, there are only five of us, the above menu would feed us for half a week!

And onto Christmas day's menu:
Christmas Breakfast: regular breakfast, followed by one hour of 9AM church.

Christmas Brunch/Lunch: after church we'll opening presents, then we'll have our real breakfast at lunchtime.
Scrambled eggs
maybe Hash Browns

Christmas Dinner:
Cheese Potato Casserole (aka Funeral Potatoes)
Magleby's rolls
Sweet Potato Casserole (my recipe has different proportions, but is very similar to this one)
Cornbread Stuffing (but my recipe calls for sour cream rather than plain yogurt)
Sparkling Apple Cider or Sparkling Grape Juice
Green Beans (or maybe just steamed green beans or steamed broccoli)

Still kind of a lot of food for five of us... but then there will be lots of leftovers too!

Christmas Dessert:undecided... I'll let you know.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

"I'm Bored."

Today was one of those days.  Our school days have slowed down a bit getting ready for Christmas break, so once school is out of the way for the day, Princess Sparkley pesters me every five minutes with declarations of boredom and questions of what can she do.  I have very clear memories of doing the same thing to my mom when I was little.  I even realized how annoying I was when I did it, I just couldn't think of a thing to do.  And half the time I didn't even want to do what she suggested.  Today, after her third declaration of boredom where my response was for her to unload the dishwasher (her daily chore) she finally did it.  I even let her use glitter glue and scrapbook today, which are usually right up there with painting and Play-doh in the likelyhood that I'll allow it to happen.  I desperately need to make one of these.  An "I'm Bored Jar."  Maybe one for me as well because I was a little bored today too.

Monday, December 12, 2011


I haven't posted a menu in awhile and lately, we've been all about menus... so here's what's on for this week:

Monday: Pasta Alfredo
     And I'm cheating and using a jar of alfredo sauce over radiatore noodles and freshly shredded Parmesan and going vegetarian with just broccoli.  This is Princess Sparkley's FAVORITE meal!
  Dessert: Grinch Cookies (I made these last week following the recipe, today I'm going to try a regular cookie recipe (not the sugar cookie mix in this recipe) and mint it up.

Tuesday: Ham and Cheese Spiral

Wednesday: Chicken and Rice Stir-fry
   This is one of my dad's go to meals.  I'm going to assume it's from a healthy cookbook, because that's how he is, but I'm not sure.  We ate it a lot growing up.

Thursday: Hawaiian Chicken

Friday: Nachos (or bean burrito filling)

Saturday: Black Bean Chili Over Rice
     A roommate in college gave me this recipe and for some reason, I really really like it.  Maybe because it makes me feel like I'm eating sort of healthy. 

Sunday: Chicken and Tortilla Chowder

Monday: Best Grilled Cheese and tomato soup (minus the tortellini so we can dip our sandwiches in it)
  Dessert: Jed is in charge of our Family Home Evening treat, so probably these.

Thursday, December 08, 2011


I realized this morning that I never posted (on this blog) a picture of this Pinterest project my friend and I did so we had a spot to hang our stockings.

I love how ours turned out.  Thanks, Emma!

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Almost Famous

The other day I did a Google search for "Ruby Redfort book" since Princess Sparkley has been waiting (sometimes patiently, sometimes impatiently) for its release for over a year now.  Ruby Redfort is the series that Clarice Bean reads in Lauren Child's (from Charlie and Lola fame) Clarice Bean books.  And now, Child has FINALLY written the first book in the new Ruby Redfort series.  But it doesn't come out in the US until March.  Still, PS is thrilled that at some point it will be available to her.  And I was a little excited that when you search "Ruby Redfort book," it brings up five images and numbers three and four are from my blog.  Number four is even handmade by yours truly!  It's like I'm famous!  Sort of. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Christmas Countdown

I like countdowns and decided that this year our family needed a countdown that was doing fun stuff together throughout December.  I looked around on Pinterest and using   this and this, came up with our new countdown.

 I spent under $5 on this. The board was from Lowe's for $3 something. The clothespins were a dollar (I think) from Walmart. I borrowed the red paint, owned the green paint and used scrapbook paper, fabric, and Modge Podge to make the white, red Ho Ho Ho, and light green clothespins. The Santa clothespin for the 25 is a magnet I've owned forever but the magnet is too weak to hold anything up. The snowmen on each end are ornaments but we own A LOT of ornaments, so I cut a strip of the red fabric and made a new scarf for one of them and hot glued them on.  The numbers are from here and here.  This year I just let the kids color them.  Next year, I'll get them printed all pretty.

And here's what we're going to do each day (not in order).  Click to view larger.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Laura's Creamed Corn

I'm posting this mainly for selfish reasons. I'm worried that I'm going to lose it. The Laura that this recipe is named after is my cousin's wife. Every Thanksgiving growing up, she'd make this creamed corn for our families to enjoy when all of us got together to celebrate. Yum!

2 20oz. bags frozen corn
8 oz. whipping cream
8 oz. whole milk
6 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
pinch of white pepper
2 TBSP melted butter
2 TBSP flour

Combine all ingredients (except last two) in pan and bring to boil. Simmer 5 minutes. Mix well. Blend butter with four and add to corn. Mix well and remove from heat.

My notes: This actually takes longer than I expect it to because the corn always freezes the cream and milk. So... take that into account when planning how early to make this part. I've also doubled it and had it turn out fine. It just takes longer and requires a bigger pot.

Saturday, November 19, 2011


I stumbled upon this video on Pinterest the other day.  (Yes, Pinterest, crazy.  I know.)  It's possible that I've already linked to it on here because it's one of my favorite Weezer videos.

So then I started watching all the Weezer videos on Youtube.  I really like this one too:

And this one:

Really... all of them, but I'll stop now with these three.

Friday, November 18, 2011


When reading a book that needs flashbacks, which type do you prefer?

a) Flashbacks entered into the normal layout of the book like all of a sudden the narrator is remembering something.

b) Alternating chapters

c) Alternating parts (ie: Part 1 is present, Part 2 is a flashback, Part 3 is present, etc.)

d) Some other method my feeble brain cannot even imagine right now.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


I would probably get a better response to this if I posted it on Facebook*, but I'm a little unsure that I want to announce to everyone I know that I'm writing something that could someday amount to a novel.  So, I'm asking you guys. 
I need to know break-up stories.  But, specifically, I want break-up stories where the people ended up getting back together.  I want to know why the dumper broke up with the other person.  I'm assuming that because they end up back together, the dumper still had feelings for the dumpee, but I guess that assumption could be wrong.

If you want to respond but not on this thread, email me at: nanceisthewritingfish at gmail dot com

*I could get away with asking this question about prom on Facebook because no one had to know I was writing anything.  Feel free to answer it as well if you didn't already on Facebook.

Survery of proms: Do most proms involve a dinner? I know mine did. But other formal dances had you go out for dinner on your own and just show up for the dance.

The general concensus was that you went out to eat on your own, but it varied by school.  My prom fed us.  I remember the food sounding fancy, but I don't think it was actually especially great.

What Gets Me Excited

Jed is writing a paper about the 2003 gubernatorial recall election in California in which I got to vote for action movie star, Arnold  Schwarzenegger.  I'm actually a prime example of what his paper is thinking about... I didn't want Arnold for governor, but I thought he'd have a better chance of winning than McClintock.  Anyway, none of this is what gets me excited.  Had you fooled, didn't I?  At the end of the semester his professor is having the students present their papers.  In a normal size class, this would be about 15 minutes per person.  But this class only has four students, so instead of letting them go home early, he's having them each present for 40 minutes.  Jokingly I told Jed he should open with food, a sort of mini reception for 15 minutes and then go into his presentation. I volunteered to make treats.  Then I got SUPER excited (here's the part that got me excited!) because I have California-shaped cookie cutters (as evidenced here) and he's agreed to let me make California-shaped cookies for his presentation.  I'm so excited!  I'm a weirdo, I get that.  But I still think it's going to be pretty cool.  Along the lines of this. He really is so nice to humor my craziness.  Thanks, Jed.

Update: His presentation was this week... here are the cookies:

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Fall Leaves

Find my old Thanksgiving posts here.

We don't have any trees in our backyard, but all of our neighbors have huge trees that hang into our yard, meaning we still got a ton of leaves falling onto our lawn.  Jed and the boys went out back yesterday to rake.  When I came out to see how it was going, this is what I found.  Later in the day, the boys and I went out front to rake.  It ended up just Little Guy and I and I told him my secret.  That was the first time in my life that I can ever remember raking up fall leaves.  I grew up on 2 acres of avocado trees in California, so I've raked up avocado leaves.  But it's different than battling an ongoing season that will continually drop every leaf on the tree until there are no more leaves to fall. For instance, we looked out the back window this morning and saw that the lawn is partially covered in leaves again. And everytime I new leaf fell (as we were watching), Jed said, "Ah!"

Saturday, November 12, 2011


Unpacking... still?  You ask.  Yes.  We moved over two months ago and there are still small piles of junk (in my room) that need sorting through.  And there are two piles of boxes in the downstairs.  One pile is 2 1/2 boxes of Jed and my stuff that I'm just not sure where to put it.  Random stuff that has no place.  The other pile of boxes down there is a mixture of toys, kid artwork, and junk gathered up from their rooms.  As I've been unpacking, when I've come across junk or other items I'm not sure what to do with, I've been throwing them into these junk boxes.  Today, we're tackling the kid junk boxes and let me tell you, my kids produce a ridiculous amount of paper trash.  I went through it and trashed about two thirds.  Then Jed went through my trash pile and saved some.  But we're talking forests worth of their stories and artwork.  Forests.


While typing, spell check informed me that "hideable" isn't a word.  I thought, "that should totally be a word.  What else do you call something that can be... oh, hidden."

Friday, November 11, 2011


I'm participating in National Novel Writing Month right now.  I always have ideas for stories and Jed challenged me (possibly last year as a New Year's Resolution) to complete one of my story ideas, so I thought I'd work on one of my most promising ideas that is possibly ten years in the making.  Anyway, in working on this, I found myself spending a bunch of time online today researching tattoos.  I don't have any tattoos.  I have no plans to ever get a tattoo, but there are some cool tattoos out there.  A few years ago Jed asked me what type of tattoo I'd get if I ever got a tattoo and I answered him immediately.  I think I shocked him a little.  Not only did I have an answer for him, I had it for him without pause.  (For those of you who are curious, I would get a tattoo of this Charles Rennie Mackintosh rose.  For those of you who know me, you might recognize it because I own a version of this necklace.) 

Sitting around in college chatting with friends and roommates about what our vices would be if we weren't LDS, I could never come up with a definite thing.  One friend was convinced she'd be a chain smoker.  I always figured I'd probably be a drunk based on a childhood of sipping apple juice out of champagne flutes.  But now, now I realize I'd probably be covered in thousands of dollars worth of tattoos. 

And what does all of this have to do with National Novel Writing Month.  Nothing and everything.  But mainly, it's a great form of procrastination.  Both the researching of tattoos and the blogging about said research and obsession.

P.S.  What tattoo would/will/did you get?  And/Or, what would be your vice?

Thursday, November 03, 2011


Sorry, guys, if there are any of you out there that happen upon this post.  I made the title straightforward so you can consider yourself warned.

I've never given much stock to PMS.  Mainly, I took offense and immediately disliked any person, male or female, who blamed anything on it.  Males because it's just offensive and I'm partially a feminist.  Females because it seemed like blaming something because you're female.  And like I said, I'm part feminist.

I'm not sure I've blogged this before, but I know I've thought it hundreds of times.  I think everyone needs counseling, pschiatric help, a therapist, perhaps a life coach, whatever you want to call it.  We all have problems and we all need help.  I started wondering recently if the times when I feel the most like I myself could benefit from some sort of therapy coincide when I am also experiencing PMS.  If any of my calendar keeping episodes of the past had ever worked out, I'd consider keeping track.  But I tried to keep track of headaches and if they were associated with what I'd eaten or done, among other things.  The longest this lasts is half a day.  So, it doesn't look promising that I'll ever figure this out.
But... I do wish I could go back in time and monitor crazy things I've done in my life or super insecure moments of not only my adolescence, but my adulthood, and see if I was PMSing then as well.  For instance, there was a time in 10th grade when Jed and I were in a fight (he and I had "gone out" but weren't currently) when he said something along the lines of, "if you want me to leave you alone, I will" and I said something like, "yeah, whatever" and we didn't speak for a year.  I for sure don't know what that was all about, or why I wanted him out of my life for a year.  But I know a year later I was desperate to get him back.  Looking back, I'd very much like to blame that on PMS.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Happy Halloween!

A day late, but our weekend plans got messed up by snow on Saturday (in Pittsburgh, PA where we were supposed to be trick or treating at the zoo) so the kids didn't put their costumes on until actual Halloween day.

They had a Star Wars theme going: Clone Trooper - Commander Cody, Padme and Darth Vader.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Goals Shmoals

It's a good thing I didn't actually post my New Year's Resolutions for this year because with just over two months left in the year, it's going pathetically.  I was supposed to finish three Blurb books this year of our family blog (2010, 2006 and 2005).  I'm in February of 2010. I have however far surpassed even my expectations for number of books read and pages read (I'm at 84 books and 27,291 pages and counting).  I don't even remember my other goals (I did write them down somewhere, just not on the blog).  I believe running was involved.  That fizzled and died with my month long summer trip to California and Utah.  Then life went back to "normal" and normal was unpacking a new place, homeschooling the kids, etc.  So... I guess I should resolve to be better next year and make the most of these next two months.  Wish me luck.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Egg Molds

I'm both intrigued and a little creeped out by these hard boiled egg molds.  Buddy might get a pack in his stocking.

buy them here, there are other shapes too
Seen on Pinterest via here

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Halloweens Past

I was remembering all the costumes my kids have had over the years, amazed at how many Halloweens they each have under the belts and since their costumes are much cooler than the punk rocker I was for several Halloweens in a row in the late 1980s, I figured I'd document my thought process here.

Princess Sparkley was a SWEET PEA.
w/ cousins.  Camarillo, CA*

We'll say she was a PEA-HEN, but techinically, only the Peacocks have the fancy colors and feathers.
Somis, CA

Camarillo, CA

Buddy's first Halloween as a FISH

Lawrence, KS
Lawrence, KS

Lawrence, KS

Lawrence, KS

Lawrence, KS

northern Virginia

northern Virginia

COOKIE MONSTER and Jed makes an appearance as GIANT COOKIE

What will 2011 bring?
I'll give you a hint, the kids have a theme going on.

*Yes, the year labeled on the picture is wrong.  I don't know why.
This was pre-digital camera for us, so this is all I have on the computer.
**This is the year PS started throwing up just as we got her costume on to go trick-or-treating so I don't have any great pictures of her... she hadn't felt well all day.
***Buddy refused to dress up this year.  Then we picked this costume and he ended up sleeping in it some days because he refused to take it off.  He just barely outgrew it last year and still wore it all the time until I hid it away.
****How are there so many years that I didn't get not only a good picture of the kids together in their costumes, but not even one picture.

What. Is. This!?!

I think I've found something worse than the house centipede.  And faster.




It looks like a house centipede mated with a cricket.  I vacuumed one up in our "basement" the other day.  Then tonight, when I opened the back door down there to clear leaves from the drain so our "basement" didn't flood in the huge downpouring of rain we had, I saw this guy climbing up the door frame.  EEK!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Cooking Mistakes

Via Pinterest, I found this article.

 I'm guilty of:
  2.  You don't read the entire recipe before you start cooking. I do this too often for it to be funny.  Case in point, last Friday I was taking a soup (that I'd never made before) to a woman from church who just had a baby.  The bottom two lines expressed that after you added the half and half you were supposed to let it simmer for an hour.  In all my looking the recipe over I never noticed this.  By the time I added the half and half, I had maybe 20 minutes before I needed to pour it into a giant bowl and deliver it to this ladies house.  Luckily, it still tasted fine.

  5.  You overheat chocolate.  I've learned my lesson though and I'm very careful when heating chocolate now.

  6.  You over-soften butter.  Guilty.  Often.

  But other than the ones I don't even understand (like number 21 shocking my vegetables) I do alright.  I even already bake my bacon in the oven because I always burn it on the stove.  How's your cooking?

Monday, October 10, 2011

"Every Child is an Artist."

My kids create enough "art" to take out a rain forest, so I've always needed a good art wall where I can display it.  In Kansas our door was metal so we'd magnet all their art to the back of the door.  I've thought before of pinning up some yarn and clipping the kids' art to it, similar to how a friend did it down her hallway in Kansas, but I'm loving these ideas.  The first is actually what our curtain rods are right now, from IKEA. 

from here

from here

I love the quote on this one... from here.
from here

from here
from here

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Peanut Butter No-Bakes

aka Peanut Butter Rolled Oat Clusters

My brother always made these growing up. It's probably the only thing he ever cooked. Now Jed makes them. Pretty soon Buddy will be making them as well because he requests them as our Family Home Evening treat each week.  I mentioned them to a friend at book club the other night and she'd never had the just peanut butter version w/o chocolate.  It's our favorite. 

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup butter
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups rolled oats
*optional: 1/3 cup cocoa

Combine sugar, milk, butter, salt in 3 quart pot; stir. Bring to a full boil for exactly one minute. Remove from heat. Add peanut butter and vanilla. Stir until smooth. Add rolled oats; mix well. Cool slightly until mixture holds shape. Drop by spoonfuls onto wax paper and let cool.

Jed always dumps them from a spoon like pictured.  I use a cookie scoop.  I saw on another blog that some people put them in an 8x8 or 9x9 and after they cool you can sort of slice them like fudge.

My Babies

We didn't hang up a lot of pictures at our old townhome because we were never really settled there and were constantly trying to figure out how we could move and where to. So these haven't been out in awhile and the kids were excited to see them.  Plus I've been seeing a lot of the handprint versions on Pinterest.  I originally got the handprinting idea from the wall of a nursery in a Pottery Barn Kids catalog before PS was born.

Monday, October 03, 2011



  I am trying to remember how hot it was a couple months ago, and how much colder it still has to get.  47 degrees outside right now,  66 inside, and it took forever to convince myself to get out of my warm cozy bed this morning. 

  School starts.  We scaled down our "school day" during the summer, just doing reading, handwriting and math review, then that died on our Utah/California trip.  We came home to a new home we had to unpack and organize, so we started our school year a week late.  And, even then, I hadn't mapped anything out yet, we've just been reviewing the things we've forgotten over the summer (handwriting, spelling, reading, multiplication tables (PS) and double digit addition and subtraction (Buddy)) and working on Geography and Spanish.  Over the weekend I mapped out what we'll be studying in October so today, we officially are starting our PLANNED school year.  Princess Sparkley in 4th grade, Buddy in 2nd grade and Little Guy is starting homeschool preschool with the letter A.

  I still have a long list of stuff to do to get our new place all the way unpacked and all the way organized.  The middle level (dining room, kitchen, living room) is mostly all there and organized.  The upper level with bedrooms has some piles that need to be cleaned up, organized or attached to walls.  The lower level is 100% better than it was, but still has a few boxes to unpack, and A LOT of toys to organize... somehow.

  I start my reading list for 2011.  Pathetic, I know it being October and all.  So far I've read Franny and Zooey, a chapter of Beloved and I'm a few chapters in to reading the third Harry Potter aloud to the kids.  I've read.  A lot.  More than any year in the past.  But I've sort of ignored my list and read a lot of fun stuff instead.  Now I've got to buckle down and better myself with some classics.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Halloween Prep

Princess Sparkley: "What's the rule about when we can get out the Halloween decorations?"
Yep.  I have to have a rule for that sort of thing.  If there were no rules, chaos (or as PS says, "CH-A-Os*") would ensue.

My answer, "Not until October."  She thinks this means October 1st.  What it really means is that on October 1st, the rule may allow it, but maybe (most definitely) I'll say it has to wait until - fill in the blank.  That's the way I roll.  I'm not going to drop everything on October 1st to decorate for Halloween when there are still boxes to be unpacked.

Speaking of boxes to be unpacked... two Halloweens after we moved to Kansas, so, October 2006, we couldn't find our Halloween decorations box.  We had a storage unit.  It was buried somewhere in there.  It was more work than necessary to dig through all of our stuff.  That year we made cheap decorations out of paper plates, yarn and construction paper.  And it turns out those decorations are among my kids' favorites that they never want me to throw out.  But... contrary to Jed's belief, we are not all hoarders (although it's too soon to say for the kids) and I've had to throw a lot of them out as they've gotten torn, faded or lost.  But because they were fun.  And cheap.  And kid-friendly.  And because I keep coming across new, similar Halloween decoration ideas, I thought I'd share some with you.

Here are some we did that year we couldn't find our decorations:
This is the only picture I can find to show our Halloween cats, bats and ghosts.  The cats and bats were just cut out free-hand by me and glued together by the kids. 
Here's a better shot of the ghosts... paper plates with a spiral cut.  And cute 2 1/2 year old Buddy.

from here (although we strung our yarn more haphazardly)

And here are the new crafts I'm excited to make this year:
from here
from here

from here

There aren't a lot of crafts here, mostly costume ideas and Halloween treats, but be sure to check out all my old Halloween posts here.

*It's impossible to try to spell it out phoenetically the way she says it... basically, she says it the way it looks and not at all the way it is supposed to be pronounced.  It's awesome.  She's a reader that girl.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Thinking about Christmas

Yes... it's not yet October and I'm already thinking and planning out Christmas.  However, I'm not shopping... yet.  I'm wondering what you guys do for presents for your kids at Christmas time.  Usually I chose a set amount of money for each kid and buy as much stuff for them as I can (on and off their list) without going over that amount.  After last year, which wasn't even a big year, the kids had opened so many presents and gotten everything they had ever dreamed of by the end of opening family presents (from each other, grandparents, aunts/uncles, etc.) on Christmas Eve.  Jed and I considered forgetting about the Santa presents.  They'd already gotten SO much and were happy, but we just couldn't cancel Santa without warning... you don't want to offend Santa.  So we went ahead with Christmas Day gift madness and decided that next Christmas would be scaled down... a lot. Now I'm trying to decide how to scale down.  Here's what I'm thinking right now, but I would love your ideas or if you do anything interesting.

For each kid:
One Christmas Ornament per kid (Jed's family tradition)
PJs or slippers (my family tradition)
Each kid will buy a present for their siblings/parents
Either two gifts per kid (one from each parent) or one larger gift to each kid (from both parents)
Stockings (stuffed)
1 Santa gift
Two books (ones the kids really want) (we'll make these from Santa)

I'm not sure what I think about this set-up because 1) I know I'll keep finding more and more presents that I'm sure the kids HAVE to have.  2) This puts the majority of our gift opening on Christmas Eve (Jed's family tradition is opening family gifts on Christmas Eve.  Mine is opening PJs on Christmas Eve).  Maybe Santa can also get them new clothes they might need (Princess Sparkley would probably be on board with this... the boys, maybe, if it was Lego, Star Wars or sports-themed shirts).

What do you do in your family?  Or what would you like to try?

Thursday, September 22, 2011


We spent the first week or so of our month "abroad" in Utah and the rest of the time at my parents' house in California.  Jed was only with us for the first few days in California (then he flew back to Virginia to pack us up, move us, take two huge exams for grad school, and start school).  We went to the beach four times, Hollywood, Disneyland, the Ronald Reagan Library, and played lots with cousins.  We ate at In N Out Burger (at least three times), The Habit, Somis Market (about four times), The Nut House (for candy), and a great shaved ice place called Shave It among other things.  Here are a few pictures:

Thursday, September 15, 2011

So far...

This is what's done.  And it may have only been clean while I was taking the picture but is currently back to messy.  Or, it's possible that there are stategically hidden boxes waiting to be unpacked but not visible in the picture.  Lots more to do...

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

New Place

The good:
  • Wood floors (especially under the table!)
  • Play/Bonus room downstairs
  • Unfinished workroom for Jed's office
  • Master bathroom
  • Bigger yard
  • Nicer neighborhood
  • Much quieter
  • Lots of storage space
  • A living room size and shape that makes more sense.
  • Rent is only about $20 more than our last place and we now have a lot more space.
  • Full sized washer and dryer in a laundry room.

The bad:
  • Super ugly from outside.  I don't particularly care for the look of this type of roof.  Oh well.  We like the inside.
  • Fleas.  We've already bombed the house twice and Jed still caught a flea on his arm this morning.
  • Neighbor next to our bedroom seems to use the TV as a white noise to fall asleep to all night.
  • Three levels of stairs is a bit tiring.
  • No blinds on any windows.
  • The bottom floor smells like dog.
  • More lawn to mow (and we only own an edger) but it appears the past renter left a lawn mower in the shed.
  • The kitchen leaves something to be desired, but it isn't teeny and it functions.
  • Full of boxes that I should be unpacking instead of blogging.

Monday, September 12, 2011


Ten years ago yesterday, Jed and I were newlyweds living in an apartment down the street from his work at City Hall. This meant that he slept until about 7:45AM and then hurried to dress and run out the door to make it to work by 8AM.  We were asleep when the airplanes hit the towers in New York.  It wasn't until my mom called, waking us up to tell us the news, that we ran to the TV.  I spent the next days, weeks, months watching the news.  Between that terrorist attack and Elizabeth Smart's kidnapping nine months later, I watched more news than any other time in my life. It was an addiction.

At the time were weren't parents, but I remember reading articles about how parents should talk to their kids about September 11th. Jed and I sort of steered clear of the subject with our kids for several years.  At first we'd come across it in nonfiction books about emergency vehicles or skyscrapers that Buddy would check out from the library.  We started by just saying that some airplanes had crashed into a skyscraper and a lot of people had died as a result.  This slowly, but without drawing attention to the terror aspect of it, turned into explaining that some bad guys did it on purpose.  Just last week the kids asked about the one plane that crashed in Pennsylvania, asking why it just crashed into land and I found myself completely choked up and overwhelmed with the heroics of the passengers as I tried to explain that those people knew what was going on with the other planes, and fought the bad guys so they couldn't crash into another building and kill more people. 

I was a little surprised when my 7 year old came home from church yesterday (September 11th) and said the teacher had asked them if they knew why the day was special.  Only he and one other boy knew, and the other boy knew because his dad works in the Pentagon.  I sort of wish my kids were enrolled in public school so I could get a glimpse of the textbooks that teach this aspect of American history.  It's the largest piece of history in my lifetime, and I have no idea how future generations are being taught about it, except for what I teach my own kids.  I hope we're doing okay...


After one month and one day split between Utah and California, we're finally back in Virginia.  And a new house.  While we were in California, sweet Jed moved all of our belongings, almost completely by himself, to a new townhome.  So now I'm back, but busily unpacking, organizing, and then planning out our homeschool year which is getting an especially slow start this year with the vacation and then the move.  Eventually, I'll be back for real.  Until then... happy unpacking to me.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Totally Addicted to These...

Random Happenings via My Cell Phone Camera

These are the random pictures that end up on my cell phone camera because whatever we were doing wasn't worthy (such as Disneyland or the beach) of bringing the real camera along for the trip. 

  • Eating marshmallows on sticks covered in sprinkles at the Rocky Mountain Candy Factory store at the outlet mall.
  • The kids got "face" painted at a church picnic in the park.  Buddy was adamantly against it until Princess Sparkley persuaded him with the dolphin.  Now, almost one week later he's only agreed to two baths and both of those have taken place with his dolphin arm up and out of the water.  It's looking pretty sad... and dirty.  I'm on the hunt for some sort of dolphin temporary tattoo.
  • There's a tunnel that goes under the road down the street from my parents.  I loved yelling "echo" in it when we went on walks when I was little, so I showed it to my kids and let them yell "echo."
  • Little Guy and Princess Sparkley (who almost got stuck) got to ride in a truck shopping cart at Vons.  They beeped their horns nonstop driving me crazy.
  • Buddy worked hard pulling dead flowers and dusting at Grandma's to earn the last few dollars he needed to be able to afford a Lego Star Wars ship.
  • I went mattress shopping 2,600+ miles away from where the mattress is needed.  Little Guy enjoyed testing them out.
  • And Little Guy has become a fair weather friend to my dad's giant chocolate lab who he's nicknamed Mr. Fenway.  Everyone else just calls him Fenway.

Someday I'll plug in the real camera again and upload some exciting pictures.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Disney Taking Over the World

I don't mind Disneyland (as seen here and here), but I can't stand that Disney seems to slowly be taking over the world. 

Monday, August 22, 2011


While I've already surpassed 22,000 pages read this year (my best year yet) I've failed miserably at this list that I created to expand my reading horizons.  I haven't read any of the books on the list.  I started Beloved but got put off my a human/animal relationship description that I really didn't want to read in the first couple chapters (or ever) and I haven't gotten back to it yet.  I better get cracking.

So far I've read 22,415 pages in 68 books.  Mostly YA books, but I love them!  Here they all are:

Twenty Boy Summer
The Sky is Everywhere
Franny and Zooey
Fat Cat
What Angels Fear
Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie
Notes from the Midnight Driver
Midnight Sun
Zen and the Art of Faking It
Rachel and Leah
Mennonite in a Little Black Dress
Charlotte's Web
Truck: A Love Story
The History of Love (2nd time)
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake
Moon Over Manifest
I, Emma Freke
After Ever After
Confessions of a Teen Sleuth
The Great House
Wolves, Boys and Other Things That Might Kill Me
There's No Place Like Home
The Mysterious Benedict Society (#1)
I Now Pronounce You Someone Else
When You Reach Me
A Red Herring Without Mustard
Where I Belong
The Book of Tomorrow
What Happened To Goodbye
The Last Little Blue Envelope
Something Borrowed
The boyfriend list
Anna and the French Kiss
Where She Went
The boy book
The Treasure Map of Boys
The Ever-After Bird
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand
Suite Scarlett
Fly on the Wall: How one girl saw everything
Real Live Boyfriends*
Scarlett Fever
How to be Bad
Saving CeeCee Honeycutt
Close to Famous
Half Broke Horses
Gimme A Call
Fixing Delilah
84, Charing Cross Road (2nd time)
The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street
Look Me In the Eye: My Life with Aspberger's
Evolution of Me and Other Freaks
Truly, Madly
The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud
Fall for Anything
Sisterhood Everlasting
The Enchanted April
Withering Tights
Between Here and Forever
The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May & June
Uncommon Criminals
Deeply, Desperately
Learning to Play Gin

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Cedar Mountain

The first week of our vacation was spent in the mountains above Cedar City, Utah at my parents' cabin.  While there we visited Duck Creek, Duck Creek Village, Bryce Canyon National Park, Cascade Falls, Aspen Mirror, Navajo Lake and Brian Head.  We ate at In N Out Burger in Las Vegas, NV and 25 Main for cupcakes in St. George, Utah.  Then we ate at In N Out Burger in Washington (St. George), Utah on our way to California.  I think the trip would have been better for Jed if he'd been able to eat at In N Out a few more times.  :) And, Princess Sparkley turned nine surrounded my her grandparents, her family and my brother's family while we were up at the cabin.

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