06 January 2015

Crochet Snowflakes


Last Christmas I crocheted my dad a giraffe hat (because he likes giraffes), and I had so many problems with figuring out a good pattern that I had to stop and restart numerous times, and ultimately the gift arrived a day after Christmas. I don't have a picture of my dad wearing his hat, but here is a blurry, poorly lit, phone picture of Eric wearing it just before I shipped it. I was pretty sad that my parents didn't get their Christmas presents on time, and all because I couldn't get it together with this hat, which I had been planning to make him for months and months.

When we were visiting my parents in Texas this summer they gave me a book of crochet snowflake patterns. My mom made it really clear to me that she wanted some of these for her Christmas tree. After crocheting the knight hoods for Halloween I started making snowflakes, and I learned pretty quickly that they were more challenging than I expected. My mom's birthday is November 3, so I had enough time to finish and send just three snowflakes.

But for Christmas, my offering was much more significant. These are just 15 of the twenty I sent. And bonus! I got them shipped on December 15, and they arrived in time for Christmas. (The others were in the starching process.)

These are fairly challenging to make, simply because the hook is small, and the thread is fairly delicate. It is not the same as working with yarn. Each one takes between thirty minutes to an hour. The largest ones are about 3 inches across, and the smaller ones are about 1.5 inches. I watched a lot of "House M.D." while working on these beauties. I hope to continue to work on them all year so our own tree can be decorated with them next Christmas.

Here are some closeups:
 


01 January 2015

2014 - In Review

For a few years now I've done a set form of copy and paste questions to summarize my year (2013, 2012, 2011). Like RA, I've decided many of the questions are redundant or just plain dumb, so I'm tweaking it this year. (Also, I've usually posted on the last day of the year being summarized, but I'm a little late for that.)

Places where I slept at least one night:
  • Utah (includes camping!)
  • Wyoming
  • Colorado (includes camping!)
  • Texas
  • Arkansas (includes camping!)
  • Missouri
  • Pennsylvania
Outdoorsy things we did:
  • Canoed on five rivers: Provo River, Jordan River, Buffalo National River, Snake River, and the Colorado River.
  • Camped in three different states (see above).
  • Hiked in five states: Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, Texas, Arkansas.
  • Visited four national parks: Mesa Verde, Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, Arches.
My birthday:
  • Turned 30.
  • Went skydiving.
Generally noteworthy things:
  • Became a Certified Genealogist.
  • Learned more about my mystery ancestor, Isadore Gasser. (DNA is awesome!)
  • Continued to regularly make our family's bread. (Except the last month of the year. Not sure what happened there.)
  • Played church basketball for the first time since I was a teenager. I'm terrible, but it's tons of fun.
  • So much good food made by pilfering my neighbor's garden.
  • Won airfare for two to Hawaii.
  • I own a pair of Chacos. I love them.
  • We bought a nicer camera.
  • Lots of trips to Thanksgiving Point, and lots of picnics in the Gardens.
  • Lots of crafting: Roman shade, crochet snowflake ornaments for my mom, various holiday buntings, baby bear hat, knight hoods for Halloween costumes, mug cozy for a co-worker.
  • Potty-trained Ike and are currently training Felix, but at the moment I'm not sure if this is going to last.
Goals for 2015:
  • Go to Hawaii with Eric.
  • Earn more money than Eric. (This sounds like we're having a competition, but it's really just for me to measure myself. I have some good changes and opportunities coming up with my work, and I want to capitalize on them.) (And it also speaks to how poorly Utah teachers are paid, but that's another post for another day.)

2014 Books

In brief:

  • 56 books read. Of those 36 were audiobooks. (Wowza, commuting!) 
  • 21 were nonfiction. (Nearly half!)
  • Lowest month was January with 2 books read, and highest was September with 7.
Top ten percent of books I read this year (rounding up!):
  1. The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris
  2. Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor
  3. Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys by Stephen James and David Thomas
  4. 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created by Charles Mann
  5. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  6. Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell


January:
1. War Horse by Michael Morpurgo* - It was fine. I hadn't seen the movie, but after reading it, I wanted to see how they did the movie since the horse is the narrator in the story.

2. Delirium by Lauren Oliver* - I liked it. I'll probably read more in the series (As with all dystopian novels, it is, of course, a trilogy.), but I'll be sure to actually read and not just listen since the reader was not great.

February:
3. Remembering Isaac by Ben Behunin - A really boring book club read. I stopped about halfway through because I just couldn't take the feel-goody-ness of it any longer.

4. Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver* - I enjoyed this better than the second. I audiobooked it because I just needed something to listen to, and the reader was much better in this one. (Same reader, just improved reading.)

5. The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater* - Incredibly well-written, but rather slow. Once I got to the last couple of sections I just couldn't turn it off.

6. The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris - Probably the best biography I've read. I was eager to start the next two.

March:
7. The False Princess by Eilis O'Neal* - It got straight to the crux of the plot (the princess finds out she's not the princess), but then the lead up to the bigger drama in the book was fairly slow. Once it got moving I really liked it, even if the narrator said "room" really funny.

8. The Babes in the Wood by Ruth Rendell* - Very implausible plot combined with the mean-spirited portrayal of a fanatic religious group made this book frustrating to listen to.

9. In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto by Michael Pollan* - An interesting read, but I found it a little heavy-handed. This was made worse by the narrator who had a very condescending tone. Still, I love the principles it espouses.

10. Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss - I loved the more scientific approach of why our bodies love these ingredients and how the processed food companies have capitalized on it. It was interesting to read it while also listening to In Defense of Food because the tones are so different. This one is much more about discovery rather than preaching.

11. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares* - Decent fluffy reading even though all the characters were annoying.

April:
12. The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis* - I wasn't crazy about this one at first, but it really grew on me and I liked it a lot.

13. Divergent by Veronica Roth - Interesting story with pretty mediocre writing. Still, I'm excited to start the next one.

14. The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls - I stayed up until 3:30 am reading this book. I couldn't put it down.

15. Reached by Ally Condie* - Ugh. So boring, and such terrible readers in the audiobook. All the reviews told me it wouldn't be good, but I felt compelled to finish it for some unknown reason.

16. Requiem by Lauren Oliver* - Meh. About what I expected for the end of another mediocre trilogy.

May:
17. Slouching Toward Adulthood: Observations from the Not-So-Empty Nest by Sally Koslow* - A bit tiresome and redundant in parts, but I enjoyed her humor. I really liked her take-away message too. (It is, essentially, that baby boomer parents need to stop coddling their kids if they want them to grow up.)

18. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling* - Very enjoyable to listen to. And read by the author, which made it more amusing.

19. Insurgent by Veronica Roth - It took too long to get there, but I was pleased with the ending. I'm eager to read the next one, despite the mixed reviews it has received.

20. We've Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children's March by Cynthia Y. Levinson* - There was so much about this aspect of the Civil Rights movement that I didn't know. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and I appreciated that she gave insight from 4 fairly different youth who participated in the marches.

21. Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor - What a great ending to this trilogy. I've read a few trilogies in the last few years where the endings have really fizzled for me (see above!), so I'm glad to have one that I loved in its entirety. I had audiobooked the first two, so it was interesting to read this one in print.

June:
22. Seriously...I'm Kidding by Ellen DeGeneres* - Short, but I tired of it quickly. I definitely laughed throughout, but there was nothing particularly memorable about it.

23. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle* - Not as great as I'd expected. I may have liked it better if I'd read it myself instead of listening to the author's reading of it. Eric was also underwhelmed.

24. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery - I loved this when I listened to it a few years ago. Loved it again this time.

25. No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama Bin Laden by Mark Owen and Kevin Maurer* - Another interesting one to listen to, but it was a little too technical in some parts for me. I also was annoyed by the author's obvious disdain for procedures that keep the military in check.

26. Allegiant by Veronica Roth* - I went in with pretty low expectations because of the mixed reviews it's received, but I really liked it.

27. Look Me in the Eye: My Life With Asperger's by John Elder Robison - Interesting overall, but a little slow and technical at times.

July:
28. One Year in Coal Harbor by Polly Horvath* - Meh. I might have liked it better if I'd read/listened to the first book. It didn't do a lot for me.

29. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee - Such an amazing book. It was my second time to read it, and I loved it as much as the first time.

30. Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan* - Listened to this with Eric, and we both loved it. It's hilarious and sweet.

31. John Adams by David McCullough* - Listened to an abridged version read by Edward Herrmann. I just can't get over how much I love this man and how superior he was to Thomas Jefferson. Why isn't his face on Mount Rushmore?

32. Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys by Stephen James and David Thomas - I really liked this book. It gave me so many insights into boys' brains and how they work. I loved that there were lots of practical tidbits and advice throughout the book without being overbearing about the One True Way to Raise Boys (as many advice books often are about the One True Way to do whatever).

August:
33. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn - Argh. Such a compelling story told in a compelling way, but with far too much swearing and sex.

34. 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created by Charles C. Mann* - I just cannot express how fascinating this book was. I would love to read it again in print form some time.

35. Bomb: The Race to Build - And Steal - The World's Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin* - A great audiobook. It was really interesting and fun to listen to.

36. Someone Like You by Sarah Dessen* - Argh. I just disliked this book so much. I should have stopped listening to it early on. Just so many irritating things.

37. A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck - I can see why a lot of people find this book gruesome, but I really loved the writing. I'll be on the lookout for the second book. (Unfortunately it's not available for download through my library.)

September:
38. And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini - I like this guy's books. He tells great stories. And I read it in a time when I needed something meaningful but not overbearing in its sadness.

39. Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times by Jennifer Worth* - I liked the book as much as the mini-series. I'll probably listen to the next two as well.

40. Night of Cake and Puppets by Laini Taylor - Such a great novella. It was both sweet and funny. Totally worth being my first ever Kindle purchase.

41. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green - This book is surprisingly funny considering its topic. I laughed out loud numerous times at the dialogue.

42. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys* - I liked the story, but the reader was pretty annoying. My favorite part was probably the author's interview at the end of the audio version.

43. These is My Words by Nancy E. Turner - I'd read it before, but I loved reading it again for a book group read. I read it aloud to Eric during a road trip (and a little more to finish it off), and he really liked it too.

44. Argo: How the CIA & Hollywood Pulled Off the Most Audacious Rescue in History by Antonio J. Mendez* - The actual story of getting the diplomats out of Iran was actually not that thrilling. I liked hearing about his other experiences in the CIA though. The reader for this book sounded condescending the whole time, which put a damper on it.

October:
45. If I Stay by Gayle Forman* - It was fine. The last teen romance I finished was The Fault in Our Stars, and it's pretty hard to be as good as that one.

46. The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt - Really enjoyed it for the second time. The plot is a little bit cheesy with everything ending up happily for most people, but the writing is so funny. I read several parts out loud to Eric. (We'd read it together a few years ago, and though he mostly enjoyed it, he didn't have the fond memories that I had for it.)

47. Princess Academy by Shannon Hale* - I really enjoyed this, both as a book, and also as an audiobook.

48. The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge by David McCullough* - Anything read by Edward Herrmann is probably going to be worth your time. I found this so interesting, and I now I want to go to New York City again.

November:
49. Unbroken: A WWII Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand* - Read it a few years ago and loved it. This time was for book group, and I loved it again.

50. Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell* - Many laugh out loud moments. Not as depressing as I expected based on the reviews. Heaps of swearing.

December:
51. Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness; Medicine and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard* - A generally interesting read, but not really one that got me blabbing to all my friends all the cool things I learned. (Which isn't to say that there were no cool things. Just that the book didn't make me excited about what I learned.)

52. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson* - Overall a good read. Definitely on the depressing side, but it's meant to be.

53. A Long Way from Chicago by Richard Peck* - I read this a few years ago. I decided to download it to listen to on our way to and from Moab, but I didn't love the audio version. We only listened to a little of it. I then finished it over the course of several weeks of working and commuting. The audioversion has won some awards, but I felt the reader was much too slow.

54. Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr* - A rather dark read with an overall interesting theme.

55. East of Eden by John Steinbeck - I love Steinbeck's writing. This book is pretty dark, and I can't recommend it to everyone. Still, I loved its beauty.

56. Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell - Two books in a row that are really dark and gritty but with beautiful writing.

*Denotes audiobooks.

29 December 2014

White Christmas

We woke up on Christmas morning to snow on the ground. After opening presents at home and then opening presents at Eric's parents' house, we eventually headed out to go sledding.

From the beginning Felix was not really crazy about the idea. Mostly he was just upset that we made him wear a snow suit. After the first ride together when he got snow in his face he always opted to face me as we rode down.

 Eventually he had just had enough. Eric took him back to Grandma and Grandpa's house for a nap while I stayed and sledded with Ike.

We had a great time together.

He enjoyed riding by himself, but mostly he loved to ride with me. I let him ride on my back a couple of times, which was fairly amusing.
 
Grandma and Grandpa came to join us just as we were calling it a day.


24 December 2014

Meeting Santa Claus

The boys got to meet Santa Claus a few weeks ago. It went about as expected. Ike was eager to sit on his lap, tell him that he's 4 now, and request some dinosaurs for Christmas. Felix was reluctant to meet him, and even more reluctant to sit on his lap. I did manage to get him to say, "toys, please" before we left.

On a similar note, on Saturday we had a choir practice before our Christmas program that was held on Sunday. Felix sat and stood in the last pew the entire hour. He didn't play with any other children or seek out Eric or me to hold him. Near the end of the rehearsal Ike informed Eric that he needed to use the bathroom, so off he went, and he didn't come back. Soon we were looking for him. I didn't realize that another ward* was having a Christmas brunch while our rehearsal was going on. One of the men from the other ward approached Eric and asked him if he was looking for a little blonde boy in a red hoodie. When Eric told him that he was, the man said that Ike had sat down at a table and eaten a plate of food (probably one that was set out for some other child who then abandoned it), and then went to go see Santa Claus. Eric found him in line, eager to talk to Santa Claus again.  And that story, in a nutshell, is how my boys are different.

*A ward is a name for a Mormon congregation. It's sort of like a parish. Usually multiple wards share one church building and stagger their meeting times for efficiency.

22 December 2014

Shepherds' Dinner

I've heard of a few families who have a shepherds' dinner as an annual Christmas tradition. We decided to do one this year. I used this blog post as a format for our evening. One of the small humans didn't want to wear his shepherd attire, but aside from that, it was a great success. I loved talking about the birth of Christ with our sons, especially with Ike who has a much better understanding than Felix. We talked about what shepherds do and what it must have been like for an angel to come to visit the shepherds. We also talked about what it would have been like to see Jesus when he was a brand new baby. It was about as spiritual as we get with our two little monsters whose rambunctiousness can make reverence rather illusory.



We are all looking forward to doing it again next year; the boys can't wait to have a picnic of cheese and crackers on the living room floor again, and I can't wait to have a good excuse to buy and eat goat cheese. (In fact, It's unlikely that I will wait for a good excuse to do that.)