Saturday, August 31, 2013

Back to Books

I am not a very good book reviewer; I don't feel the need to analyze or rate one once I've finished, I just pick up the next one.  It's partly the reason I stopped keeping a log of what I was reading for you, and it gets me tongue tied at times at book club...

That said, I do find it helpful to come across lists of books that 'real people' have read and liked (as opposed to lists of prize winners - am I the only one who finds those ones often odd? - or lists by people I don't know).  So new to the blog this fall will be a monthly roundup of books that I've read that I would highly recommend.  Just like what I would be happy to stumble across.

And I'd be thrilled if you would leave a comment with your latest great reads so I have ideas to put on hold at the library for next month!

Here are my recommended reads from this summer:

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles.  "Set in New York City in 1938, Rules of Civility tells the story of a watershed year in the life of an uncompromising twenty-five-year-old named Katey Kontent. Armed with little more than a formidable intellect, a bracing wit, and her own brand of cool nerve, Katey embarks on a journey from a Wall Street secretarial pool through the upper echelons of New York society in search of a brighter future." (From the book's website.)

Divergent by Veronica Roth.  I read this one last year and liked it so it was my book club pick for the year.  It was our summer read, so the one we'll be discussing in September.  A young adult dystopian novel.

Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry.  One man's life story, deeply thoughtful on life in community and belonging and place, and progress / government / war.

The Secrets of Mary Bowser by Lois Leveen.  Based on a real person, a freed slave turned spy during the US Civil War. 

Friday, August 30, 2013

Reminders in the Garden - Part Three

After the snow, the city cleaners come and sweep the streets, but after a few months, dirt and leaves and garbage blow in and make it grimy looking again.  Nolan and I were out front one morning and I grabbed a rake and a garden bucket and we started cleaning it up.  Lots of it raked up, but then we had to go get the brooms to pick up the rest.

And it got me thinking...

Sometimes in our lives, areas can get dirty or cluttered simply because we don't notice a gradual build up.  Too much internet time?  House cleaning?  Not enough quiet time each day?  I find that all of a sudden you just notice - maybe Someone brings it to mind? - and it's not too hard to jump in and want to make it right. It's a quick fix, a simple decision to change.  But then comes the follow through, and the realization that it's maybe a bigger job than you thought.  Maybe you ignored that voice suggesting you 'clean it up' a little too long and you need to do more scrubbing than you expected.  Has that ever happened to you?

Keep it up!  Good habits in life (and in keeping up the yard!) take continual reminders and motivation.  Find new ways to stay motivated, picture what you want the end result to be, and be encouraged!  The dirt drifting in happens to everyone, but we all have the resources to make changes for the better.

I should warn you: getting one area cleaned up will lead to you noticing other areas that need changing. :)

Thanks for reading my Reminders in the Garden this week!  Here are Part One and Part Two if you missed them.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

School Supplies for Mom...

I've had some ideas floating around my brain lately of how I could reorganize around the house a bit.  One is about a new way to corral recipes, and the other involves a place to keep ideas for different things - a central location for lists and brain dumps.  Chore lists, blog ideas, my to do list...

So I've been half watching the school supplies, and today I came home with these beauties.

My frugal self thinks I could probably re-purpose a binder that I already have sitting on my shelf holding stuff I never look at, but I told that self to live a little and splurge.  Seriously, it was a few dollars.

My question for you, as I figure out exactly how to make these work in a way that is helpful for me, is how do you keep organized when it comes to your lists and paper stuff?

How do you keep your running to-do list?

How do you manage your multiple cookbooks and the recipes you use all the time? 

Or do you just rely on technology for all this??  

Come on, all you lurkers, I'm really curious, and I know I can just go search on Pinterest, but I want to hear from real people!  I happen to think that the people who read my blog are pretty awesome...  Thanks in advance for your input, and I will post what I come up with later.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Reminders in the Garden - Part Two

On Monday I wrote that lately some of the jobs I've been puttering away at in my yard have reminded me of parallels in other parts of life.  "Spiritual principles just hanging out in the yard waiting to be noticed.  God's message speaking through nature." Here's another one.

In the back corner of the yard stands my beautiful majestic big tree.  I didn't get a before picture, because I thought of this while I was working...  This tree has been allowed to freely bloom this year because I simply didn't notice the slow growth that turned into lots of green shoots coming up from the lower trunk.  I cut them off partly to tidy up the looks of it, and partly so that the nourishment from the ground goes up to the branches and leaves above and is not wasted on unsightly sprouts that do nothing for the beauty of the tree.

What parallel do you see there?  

It made me think of spreading my energy too thin, allowing things in my life that don't line up with who I want to be, and not leaving time and space to really build up that person. This wasn't a big 'a-ha' moment or anything, but a pretty cool reminder that when I do have a choice with my time and space, I should use my energy for things that fit with who I am and who I want to be.  Feed the beautiful habits; starve the ugly ones.

Part One is here.
This is Part Two.
Part Three on Friday...

Monday, August 26, 2013

Reminders in the Garden - Part One

We spend a lot of our time playing outside in the yard, and when I'm not playing with Nolan in the sandbox or with his golf clubs or tractors, I'm usually puttering around, tidying this and that or pulling weeds.  Lately some of these jobs reminded me of parallels in other parts of life.  Spiritual principles just hanging out in the yard waiting to be noticed.  God`s message speaking through nature. 

In my back garden (which is pretty pathetic, really), I have mainly orange lilies; a couple are wood lilies (or western red lilies, like the one on the Saskatchewan flag) and the rest Michigan lilies, which bloom seemingly upside down.  I know these facts because I just looked them up, not because I planted them... I have moved them around some, but these bulbs were here when I bought the house 13 years ago.

I noticed one stalk that was bent right over and was just about to cut it off when I saw that the buds were still healthy looking.  Either it was a recent injury or they were still getting what they needed through that broken stalk.  I remembered, too, the verse that says "A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out" (Isaiah 42:3), and I thought I would leave it alone for the time being.  Sure enough:


Beautiful flowers, growing right down there on the dirt.

I think of how God doesn't throw us out when we're not perfect, doesn't see us as useless, but gives us a chance to flower and shine and bring beauty to this world in spite of our circumstances.  Maybe situations beyond your control have left you broken, maybe you've made the choices that have left you bent, in the dirt, and feeling that you don't have the potential to become all that you once dreamed... either way, God can still use you to bring beauty and joy to his world.  He can and wants to use you - there is hope and wonder in that.

Though the stalk on those flowers was broken, it was still able to take the nutrients to the flowers and make them bloom.  Your circumstances do not need to determine your outcome.  Let God work in you, and may you shine out the beauty he made you with.

This is Part One of a mini-series - Part Two and Part Three coming up later this week.  Thanks for visiting!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Madeline Funnies

Madeline: Is there a Rider game today?
Sean: Yes.
Madeline: Is it here?
Sean: Yes.
Madeline: Who are they playing?
Sean: Edmonton.
Madeline: Oh! The Oilers!
Us: ha ha ha....
Madeline: Oh, wait... the Eskimos...

Ten minutes later, we're passing a Viterra grain terminal on the way to Gramma and Grampa's...
Madeline: What's Viterra?
Sean: A grain company.
Madeline: Is that the same thing as Viagra?
Us: ha ha ha... Remember the conversation we had the other day when you saw that ad on TV and asked what Cialas was??
Madeline: EEWW!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

What Kind of Conference??

I was reading through a bunch of different blogs the other night, and two very different writers mentioned conferences; one was about an incident that happened while she was at a conference, and one was about the author having to overcome her fears of crowds and public speaking to go to a conference that she really wanted to attend.

I was struck by the fact that there must be conferences for everything - the one mentioned was a conference for DIY/Home Bloggers, with tracks both on DIY instruction and on blogging and social media.  I guess there are a whole lot of people out there who are interested in both... I browsed around and found lots of different kinds - academic conferences, Christian conferences, blogging conferences...

I have been to Youth Quake (a youth conference at Briercrest) and Breakforth (the largest equipping and renewal conference in North America), and two years ago now our church put on a great one day women's conference/retreat, but it's been a while since I've had to slap on a name tag for something like that.

Of all the ones I've noticed recently, the one that caught my eye the most was the Declare Conference.  It's a blog conference to encourage women to keep sharing their stories, and to equip them to share those stories effectively.  "God’s use of many voices for one message [in the gospels] resonated with our desire for Christian bloggers to share the unique story of God’s good news in their lives" (from their website.)  It's in Texas, though.  That's a little far.  And it was last weekend.  And as of last weekend, N was not weaned, so leaving for a weekend was not an option.  (As of next weekend, well, we'll see...!)  Maybe they will hold a fourth one next year...

Then there's the whole retreat angle - often as inspiring and motivating, but more hands on, maybe?  Where a conference fills you up with ideas and motivation, a retreat is more an outlet to unwind from everything else and focus on one thing, and get something accomplished.  A friend of mine goes on a yearly painting retreat with her sister, and some friends and I have gone on a scrapbook retreat for a number of years now.  Either one - a retreat or a conference - can be a great getaway, inspiring you in areas of your life that you feel strongly about developing.  I am looking forward to going on our scrapbooking retreat again this fall after missing the last ones, and I will begin to keep my eyes open for conferences that may fit with my passions and see if I can make something work one of these years.

Have you ever gone to a conference?  What kind?  What would you go to a conference about?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Top Ten Things To Know About Me

Every so often I try to rethink my blog and the purpose for writing.  I'm not a mom blogger or a food or craft or scrapbook or faith blogger, even though there's a bit of all of those in here.  I decided that 'Telling Our Stories' was actually a pretty good tagline for what I do around here.  I came up with these top ten things to know about me to replace my 'about this blog' page and the 'my story' page that just never got written. 
  • I am a Christian, so everything I experience and do is filtered through my relationship with Jesus. 
  • I was widowed at 30, and left with a four year old.
  • I am happily married a second time, and am a stay at home mom again with a daughter just starting high school and a toddler son.
  • I am an introvert (INFJ) and would happily stay home most of the time.
  • I value relationships and so I also happily get out of the house for playdates and book club.
  • I like to sew and to make money off the things I sew. (Check out my shop?)
  • I like to stay fit and try to eat smart.  
  • I like to sit and read and eat cookies, too.  It's all about the balance...
  • I scrapbook and make cards, and am trying to write more letters and send more mail!
  • I blog to stay connected with family (I moved 6 hours away from mine, so they can't see my kids every day) and friends, and to share our stories.
If you know me, is there anything on this list that you didn't know??
If you don't know me, what types of posts do you most enjoy reading??

Friday, August 16, 2013

What they're like now: 14 & 18 months

Madeline at fourteen
  • likes doing her hair and experimenting with it
  • struggles to find clothes that are trendy enough to make a style statement and yet are still within our modesty requirements
  • has more freedom - a later bedtime, can go out with friends on her own, can walk or bike to farther places on her own
  • has more responsibility - she babysits a little, has money coming in, has a bank card and a system for making sure she doesn't spend more than she makes
  • is still social - she misses her school and soccer friends as it's been hard to connect over the summer, but has got in some good cousin time, and has had a good time making new friends at soccer camp
  • is a little nervous about the first days at high school, and about going to senior teen since her junior teen week at camp got cancelled.  Back to being the youngest...
Nolan at a year and a half
  • loves kitchen 'toys' and will happily play with pots and pans and the big spoons - his latest favorite is the griddle and spatulas and flipping the dishcloth steaks / pancakes, saying "Hot! Hot!" and mimicking Sean's timer for going out and flipping the burgers on the BBQ. 
  • is finally sleeping through the night for the most part.  He'll still wake and cry occasionally around 1 am, but can usually just fall right back asleep.  It's been a long journey to get here!
  • is weaning - we're down to just one bed time feed...
  • loves his monkey pj's and will keep the monkey shirt on as long as he can in the mornings
  • loves running water - the hose, the spray pad down the street, the taps in his bath and while we're brushing our teeth
  • and brushing his teeth: Winnie the Pooh on his toothbrush (the dentist gave it to Madeline to give to him!), and now toothpaste of his own - Thomas the Train
  • is a big fan of trains - toot toot!  He has a few train books that we read regularly.
  • has awesome hearing, whether it's the trains two blocks away, planes in the sky, or the back up beeps of construction trucks or garbage trucks, he notices.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Desperately Seeking Snail Mail Stationery

I received a lovely sympathy card when M's Grandma passed, from M's Grandma's sister.  Her sister passes and she sends us a note.  How sweet.  This lovely lady sends a note every Christmas, and I wanted to send a letter back.  I had used up all the letter writing paper I had, so I set out to find more... it's now weeks later, and I've searched in just about all the shops in town I can think of, with no luck.  I've also browsed online with little success.  It's quite possible that I've missed some, but I think the sad reality is that there is little call for paper for writing letters on.

Yes, I can pick up a pad of plain white paper that is letter sized, but I want pretty.  I want fun.  I want colorful.  I am so demanding.


I stopped in at Chapters on the way to pick up M from soccer camp yesterday.  We had been there somewhat recently, but I couldn't remember if I had checked.  They did have *TWO* styles of writing paper - one good quality but plain, and the other, one that I had seen online and liked.  So I picked up the 'Watercolor Birds Letter-Perfect Stationery' by Peter Pauper Press and have got my first letter written and ready to mail.  You might want to watch your mailbox this week and see in you're the lucky recipient!

I came across an article that said long letters are on the downturn, but that sending short notes is still quite popular.  I did find lots of card sets both in shops and online, so I would suspect that is true.  I do find that I send cards far more than letters; the difference maybe is that a card is usually sent because of an occasion, or for a reason, although once in a while I will send one just because.  A letter in my mind is completely just because.  It's a bit of love via pen and paper for no reason other than genuine affection.  And cards I can make; paper has to be bought... or so I thought.  I found a blog called Papered Thoughts and like some of the ideas she uses to send letters.  I might go through my scrapbooking stuff and make my own letter writing paper, too.

I guess what matters is that sense of connection - that there is something in the mail because I think you're important.  Whether it's a card or letter, bought or made, for a specific reason or none at all, it's something special.

I am going to try to send more mail.  You?  What was the last piece of mail you got or the last fun mail you sent? 

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Huge Family Heirloom Denim Picnic Blanket Quilt

Well, it is pretty big, it is denim, and it is meant for the picnics I've dreamed of having on it... but family heirloom? We'll have to see if it lasts or not!  And if either of my kids are sentimental... that might play a big role in that question.  :)  Actually, I don't think 'denim' and 'family heirloom' belong in the same sentence.

Ta Da!!

Can you find the two pockets??

Throw on a toddler for perspective...

Had to throw this one in.

The back - a fun splash of color.

The End!
I didn't handstitch a blind binding on it - too much work for what it's on.  I sewed it on the back first, then when I flipped it around to the front, I was just careful to stitch close to the edge and cover the first seam.  So the back has a line of stitching that shows around the binding, and I am just fine with that.

I'm done just in time, because I hear a toddler awake in his crib... poor guy is a little sick and his coughing woke him up an hour too soon.  We'll have to have a mellow afternoon making cookies and supper.  He loves playing in the kitchen (flipping 'steaks' on the griddle, and imitating Sean's timer he uses for flipping stuff on the bbq), so it should be an ok couple of hours until we have to go get Madeline from soccer camp at the University.  She had a good first day yesterday, but came home TIRED.  Ha ha - it'll be a good week for her.

Love you all!!  Thanks for visiting!

Thursday, August 01, 2013

a nap time truth

The house is quiet with one napping and one out babysitting.  A truth I've learned is that if I get some work done first and then sit with my book, the hours of nap feel longer and more productive.  If I sit first, I get groggy and it's hard to get up to do anything. Today I sat first, but managed to get my but in gear to also get at some 'can't do with Nolan's help' work.  It helps that my book isn't all that captivating.  My quilt is almost finished - only one side left of the binding to sew - so I'm headed to my machine to see if I can knock that one off my to do list.  It's been a long project and I will be so happy to have it done, even thought it's been in use already many times unfinished.  Photos to come!