Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Crafts are for Babies! (pt. 3)

I followed up my first sewing effort with an infinitely easier project!  I wanted to sew something for the Speck so I could later say "Hey, you, don't spit up on that nice thing I made for you!"  I hunted around the internet's tutorials but never found anything easy enough suitable.  So I gave up on that for a while, until I happened across a super easy tutorial for a super easy blanket (showing here).  And what can I say, it was as super easy as it looked! 


(Sometimes when I just glance at those little whales I think their red cheeks are eyes and they look scary.  I'm sure the Speck will be wiser than me.)

There is some question as to who this blanket belongs too...but I must say that I had the first nap with it.  Tis cozy. 

Consider this a sneak peek into our maritime/aquatic/oceanic airlines themed room for the Speck.  And by "themed" I mean it has things in it that made us say "Hey, it's oceany!  Let's get that one." 

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Insurgent (Book Review)

Author: Veronica Roth
Year: 2012
Genre: Dystopian
Reading Level: Young Adult

Series: Second in the Divergent trilogy

Literary Awards:
Goodreads Choice Award for Best Young Adult Fantasy and Best Goodreads Author (2012)

Plot Summary: The harmony that once existed between the five factions is gone, replaced with the threat of war and death.  Tris Prior grapples with the loss of her family and her own guilt, all while being stuck firmly in the middle of the factions' conflicts.  To keep what she has left will require sacrifice and (dun dun dun) insurgency.

Red Flags: Violence, some mild teenage lustiness

My Rating: B-
I'm not going to go on about this too much--most of my issues with this book were the same as with the first.  The first thing I noticed about this book was that I had forgotten almost everything about Divergent in the two months since reading it.  I remembered the basics, but I forgot almost every side character.  Not only that, but I forgot characters introduced in this book when I didn't read for a day or two.  What does that mean?  Too many side characters.  

Overall, this book was just kind of dull for me.  It's too long, too little happens and the ending is only so-so.  Tris veers a bit into Bella territory with her needless intentions of self-sacrifice and overwrought romantic angsting.  But I liked Janice Christina more this time around, and I'll surely pick up the third one at some point to see how it all wraps up.  But...I just don't think this series is that great.  Maybe in a few years, after a few more books, Veronica Roth will impress me more.

Some choice lines:
"Something inside me gets warm and soft."  (Just like a Hot Pocket in the microwave)

Friday, April 26, 2013

Crafts are for Babies! (pt. 2)

When I was a girl child, my Mama taught me how to sew.  This was probably a rather obnoxious process for her, given myself, but she persevered and I went on to make many pairs of pajama pants.  The last few years I've wanted to get a sewing machine but since we didn't really have a place, I held off.  This past Christmas, aided by Black Friday, I got myself a shiny new sewing machine.  It is hardly fancy pants, but it's just right for me right now.  

After Christmas I did not sew a single thing, partly because I was just too intimidated by it after not sewing for a number of years.  I talked a lot about making things for the Speck, but it never happened (see previous sentence).  Finally, when our recent vacation plans materialized and involved a pool, I decided it was time to break it out--I needed a swimsuit cover-up, if I wanted to avoid looking ridiculous in my usual one.  I read this tutorial about 50 times and decided I could do it (insert triumphant *fistpump* here).  

The first step: Subject Drewbles to the fabric store after work.  This was a good idea because it turns out he has a knack for spotting the perfect thread match.

(I say subject because my Daddio would rather go, well, anywhere other than the fabric store, so I have long since assumed all dudes are this way.  But, as usual, the Husb is happy to go along to anywhere.)

The second step: Decide there's plenty of time before vacation and let the fabric age like a fine cheese on the counter.

The third step: Realize we're leaving in two days and spend part of Friday night learning how to thread the bobbin and practicing on a fabric remnant from Walmart.  
(This is the ideal setup for sewing)

The fourth step: Trick Drewbles into thinking I made him pajama pants and watch him try to put them on.  
HAHAHA, I fooled him so good!!!!!

The fifth step: Mark the pattern with chalk using a tank top and maxi dress (I didn't trust myself to do it free hand), then do anything else to avoid actually cutting the fabric.

The sixth step: Cautiously cut the fabric, gathering steam along the way.  Gather so much steam that I don't bother to cut the hem in any kind of straight line.

The seventh step: Fret that it will never fit, but start sewing anyway.

The eighth step: Finish, with only having to redo one section, and immediately wiggle into it, despite all the clothes I'm already wearing. 

The ninth step: Rejoice that it fits!  For some reason, I uncharacteristically skipped the "weep and wail as perfectionism takes over" part and went straight to the "laugh at how wobbly some of the seams are" part instead.  

The tenth step: Hurray!  

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Crafts are for Babies! (pt. 1)

A few months ago, Drewbles and I were talking about the Care Bear Stare (never let it be said that we don't talk about the important things).  At that moment, it dawned on me that I had the PERFECT Care Bear tummy.  What better way, I thought, to harness the potential of my basketball-like figure than with a shirt that would make me look like a Care Bear?  

Well.  As it turns out, no one else has had this same idea because I couldn't find anything like that.  Ideally, this is what I wanted:

But I couldn't find anything close to that, so I put on my thinking cap again.  I had this pack of iron-on paper already so if I could find a pink maternity shirt then I could make my own!  You would think pink maternity shirts would be everywhere, but I had trouble finding the right one.  Eventually I happened upon one at Hobby Lobby (of COURSE) that was even on super sale (of COURSE--I mean, it was Hobby Lobby [I love you, Hobby Lobby!]).

So I made my awesome design in Photoshop, which took all of five minutes (all I did was find an image of the belly I wanted and then used the pen tool to recreate the shape at the size I wanted).  Then I got out my iron-on paper-in-waiting and printed it off.  "So close to finishing and it was so easy!" I crowed. 

Here's a funny thing: apparently unused sheets of iron-on paper don't really last for, oh, ten years.  Who would have thought?  I tried twice--there was no way that transfer was separating from the backing paper.  NO WAY. 

I'm pleased to say the story has a happy ending that goes like this: we went to Walmart and bought new paper.  I printed it off again, peeled off the backing in 30 seconds and finished my shirt at last!  On our vacation last week I broke it out for the first time:

(Why yes, I DID take these pictures in the hotel bathroom.  I hope you notice their fine 90s decor.)

Wearing the design on such an, ahem, rounded surface makes it kind of pucker around the edges, but I don't care because it's still so funny to me.  And before you ask, I picked Love-a-lot bear's design simply because that's the Care Bear I have.  

But yes, one person did ask if I'm having twins.  I can only hope the t-shirt led to that question and not my size...hmmmmm.

Friday, April 19, 2013

The Truth About Forever (Book Review)

Author: Sarah Dessen
Year: 2004
Genre: Novel

Reading Level: Young Adult

Literary Awards:
Romantic Times (RT) Reviewers' Choice Award for Urban Fantasy (2004), South Carolina Book Award for Young Adult Book Award (2007), ALA Teens' Top Ten (2005), Abraham Lincoln Award Nominee (2006)

Plot Summary: Macy's brainiac boyfriend goes away for the summer, leaving her with an unpleasant library job and a stressed out, emotionally distant mother.  Macy (and her mother) is still recovering from her father's sudden death a year and a half earlier, but has perfected a pretense of "fine just fine."  When she impulsively takes a job with a chaotic catering company, things start to change and "fine just fine" might not be enough anymore. 

Red Flags: Language (mostly PG-13), some teenage drinking, parental death/grief issues, liberal breaking of the third Commandment

My Rating: A-
I was excited to read this book and sad when it was over.  Like Just Listen, it balanced teen angst with real themes and good writing.  It has the perfect kind of romantic teen angst that makes me giggly but doesn't make me cringe at the same time.  The characters were a nice mix and were true to life as well.  And of COURSE I liked the brooding dreamboat guy.  Sarah Dessen knows my type--sneaky authors.

Also like with Just Listen, I wish she would dial back the language, just a touch.  I know, I know--that's how teenagers talk blah blah blah.  But that's not how ALL teenagers talk.  Just sayin'.

I don't really have anything more insightful to say.  I liked it, I liked reading it and I'll probably read more of her books in the future.  Sometimes realistic fiction seems anything but, which just annoys me, but this book hit a sweet spot of drama, relatable characters and actual insight. 

Memorable lines:
"...it was okay to not fit in everywhere, as long as you did somewhere."--ch. 9 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Stargirl (Book Review)

Author: Jerry Spinelli
Year: 2000
Genre: Novel

Reading Level: Young Adult

Literary Awards: Rebecca Caudill Young Reader's Book Award Nominee (2003), South Carolina Book Award Nominee for Young Adult Book Award (2003), Grand Canyon Reader Award for Teen Book (2003), Michigan Library Association Thumbs Up! Award Nominee (2001), Iowa Teen Award (2003), ALA's Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults (2001), Book Sense Book of the Year Honor Book for Children's Literature (2001), Abraham Lincoln Award Nominee (2006), NAIBA Book Award for Children's Literature

Plot Summary: Mica High is a quiet, homogeneous place until the exuberant, colorful Stargirl arrives.  Her fellow students are at first surprised by her, and then they adore her, imitating her quirky habits and enthusiasm.  Leo Borlock is drawn to her, even as her public displays of oddness make him a little uncomfortable.  When the student population turns on Stargirl, Leo is stuck between the conventional expectations of his peers and a desire to be with the entirely unconventional Stargirl.
Red Flags: None, unless you count teenager pettiness and meanness.

My Rating: A-
The last Jerry Spinelli book I read is Maniac Magee in fifth grade.  That has nothing to do with my review, but I felt like saying it anyway.

I really liked this book.  It was well written (too well written to be the thoughts of a teenage boy, hah), and almost elegant in its simplicity.  I think a good number of current YA authors could learn a lot from this book and how the characters and story are handled so deftly.  The setting was vivid and the emotions and motivations of all the players were clear and real.  I liked that Leo doesn't always do the right thing and that the ending is bittersweet.  I also liked that there was some perspective to it at the end--that high school drama (real though it is) is not the end of all things.  

My only real issue with this book is that I didn't necessarily like Stargirl.  She's compassionate, sensitive and unique, and I am all for those things.  But I am also all for not making a nuisance of yourself, and often she did, even though her intentions were good.  It's great to be confident in yourself and be your own person, but I think there's a happy medium between individuality and societal norms.  Isn't there?

Overall, a well-written tale that both teenagers and adults can relate to, with solid characters and a memorable setting.    

Thursday, April 11, 2013

A Shocking Lack of Vomit

I will start out with the depressing part.  Most of the time I am okay with the fact that I don't live near any of my immediate family.  Partly because it's been that way for so long and partly because, well, that's how it is.  But sometimes it just kind of stinks, like when you want your Mama to pat you on the head or when there's a new Fast and the Furious but all of your Fast and the Furious buddies live states away.  Anyway, the point is that when you only see some of your family once a year or so, it is very exciting. 

That is why it was ever so exciting when Marci, my sister of all sisters, came to visit me!  You may recall that her last visit did not go *quite* as planned so we were extra determined that this trip would be all fun and no barfing.  'All fun' apparently translated to 'eat everything in the world'.  So here was our weekend, according to the food:

Thursday night: On the way home from the airport we stopped at IKEA for dinner.  I got the soup and mac and cheese--a winning combination?  (We also got a new shelf for the laundry room, wheeeee!)

Friday: We hit Brick Oven for lunch, after a morning of YouTube and Pilates and probably some kind of healthyish breakfast.  Brick Oven...is not so healthy, but it WAS tasty.  I got a lil calzone and Drew finally got that sandwich he'd been threatening to order for the last 4 years or so.

After seeing G.I. Joe (of course!) we stopped at the mall for some See's, then hopped over to Drew's mission reunion.  They had pistachios sans shells and we ate a lot of them. 

Once home we got some Indian takeout, since Marci hadn't really ever had it before.  Isn't Indian food just the best?  We ate it while watching The Help, because Marci hadn't seen it, and if that's not a mix of cultures I don't know what is.  That was Friday.  Apparently we took no pictures on that day.  

Saturday I had Raisin Nut Bran for breakfast.  Don't pretend you aren't fascinated!!!  After that exciting breakfast we took the train up to Salt Lake and got there just in time to beat the lunch crowd at the Lion House on Temple Square.  Marci had never been on a train OR eaten at the Lion House so maybe this weekend was as much about food as it was about doing things Marci had never done.  Look, we are on the train:

It was much more fun to ride during the day, when we could see all the dirt piles and junk yards.

After lunch, we parted ways for the afternoon session of General Conference.  Marci and I got excellent tickets from a nice random fellow while Drew scurried off to translate.  There was no food involved in this portion of the day, but I did have a lady tell me it looks like I've dropped.  No, I don't think that happens when you still have almost two months to go, LADY.  Look, here we are at Temple Square:

(Also, that's a Hmong tie...hearts aren't Drewbles's usual tie aesthetic)
(Not that hearts on ties are a bad thing)

 We were front and center on the plaza!

A few hours later--and a few purchases at H&M later (where Marci had never bought anything before!  So many firsts!)--we rode the train back to Provo for some Skyfall and some dinner from....In-n-Out!  We were nervous.  
(Oh hai, belly button.)

The (only) upside to our prior visit was that we got certificates for free meals and finally, all these months later, we put them to use.  Did we survive the night?!!?!?

Yes, yes, we did.  And there was much rejoicing in the morn!  It was sleepy rejoicing because we stayed up way too late discussing our childhood.  Luckily we had time for naps during the last sessions of General Conference on TV.  Hahaha, just kidding, Mom. 

Earlier that week a copy of the new Smitten Kitchen cookbook had arrived at the library for me, so on Sunday we feasted upon her New York Breakfast Casserole.  I can't link to the recipe obviously, but it is worth checking out her book for.  It's a mix of cut-up bagels, grape tomatoes, red onions and cream cheese, with an egg and milk mixture holding it all together.  Delicious!

For dinner we had grilled Reubens made with a corned beef brisket (I had never had corned beef brisket!).  I have been smelling sauerkraut in the kitchen ever since, but fortunately I love sauerkraut. "Sauerkraut, sauerkraut!...Forget that sauerkraut, you need to get to the store!" 

I told Marci that I would make her a red velvet cake.  So I did.  But since it also happened to be my brother's birthday, we called it his birthday cake.  It was a tasty accompaniment to some Daria and Dr. Doctor Who.
I used the SK recipe--two thumbs up, but double the frosting.

And then it was time for bed!  And before we knew it, it was Monday morning and we were driving back to the airport in the rain.  And parking by the wrong terminal.  And walking to the right one.  And saying farewell at security!  D:  
Baby, why you so big?
Don't I have such a pretty sister?

Alas and alack.  I guess it's back to phonecalls and Facebook.    

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Life of Pi (Book Review)

Author: Yann Martel
Year: 2001
Genre: Novel

Reading Level: Adult

Literary Awards: Man Booker Prize (2002), Exclusive Books Boeke Prize (2003), Governor General's Literary Awards / Prix littéraires du Gouverneur général Nominee for Fiction (2001), Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, Abraham Lincoln Award Nominee (2005) Hugh MacLennan Prize (2001), Deutscher Bücherpreis for Belletristik (2004), CBC Canada Reads Nominee (2003)

Plot Summary: Sixteen-year-old Pi Patel is on a Canada-bound ship with his family when disaster strikes and the ship is sunk.  Pi, the sole human survivor, is stranded on a life boat, along with another survivor--a fully grown Bengal tiger.

Red Flags: Peril, animal blood and guts (of a circle-of-life nature), the messiness that comes with survival stories

Movie adaptation (I highly recommend it, though I recommend reading the book first)

My Rating: A
I had a lot of faulty ideas of what this book was about (how does this keep happening?).  I thought it was almost pure allegory or involved story telling between Pi and the tiger.  What I did NOT expect was an actual story of survival at sea.  Of course, that's what it's about but not necessarily what it means.  I know--deep.  

Anyway, I very much enjoyed this book.  The writing is lovely--detailed but not laborious, straight forward but not spare.  Yann Martel paints such vivid pictures of times, places and characters.  The characters themselves are engaging, true to life and relatable, even when their specific circumstances are not.  It was a gripping reading experience, and made me realize that I rather enjoy being horrified and awestruck by nature.  The only little quibble I have is that with so much focus on religion in the first part, I wish that aspect had come a bit more full circle in the end.  Not that I want to be hit over the head with Meaning, but just something to bring it back to that first part.  Then again, maybe it did and I didn't get it.

As for what it means, I admit that when I finished this book my reaction was "..."  I like ambiguous endings when they're done well (which this is), but part of me just wanted a clear answer.  But if I had gotten one, would I still be thinking about it now?  Doubtful.  I really don't think I'm insightful enough to pick out the deep thoughts here (I was pretty happy with it just as a harrowing tale of survival, to be honest), but with regards to the end, one reviewer on Goodreads summed it up by saying the question the reader faces at the end is not only which story they prefer/believe but what that preference says about them.  Since I go back and forth even now, I guess that means I am wishy washy.

Memorable lines:
"The first time I went to an Indian restaurant in Canada I used my fingers.  The waiter looked at me critically and said 'Fresh off the boat, are you?'  I blanched.  My fingers, which a second before had been taste buds savoring the food a little ahead of my mouth, became dirty under his gaze.  They froze like criminals caught in the act.  I didn't dare lick them.  I wiped them guiltily on my napkin.  He had no idea how deeply those words wounded me.  They were like nails being driven into my flesh. I picked up the knife and fork.  I had hardly ever used such instruments.  My hands trembled.  My sambar lost its taste."

Monday, April 01, 2013

Things I Know

I have often heard ladies talk about how they sense their baby's personality whilst said baby is in the womb.  In a similar vein, they readily identify which body part is where and, if pressed, could probably tell you if their baby will be a CEO one day.  That is to say, some ladies are very insightful about their offspring.  I am not one of those people.  The Speck could be poking me with a fishing pole for all I know.  But recently I have picked up on a few things about this presumably human creature dwelling amidst my innards:

--The Speck sticks any and all of his appendages up in my ribs frequently.  Therefore, I know that Drew passed on his love of ribs and even though mine are not cooked and covered in BBQ sauce, they are alluring still.

--The Speck also likes to stay on the right side.  Therefore, I know that he is very good and already choosing the right.  

--(Also I know he will be right-handed and right-brained.)

--While I can't be sure (again, it could be a fishing pole), I sometimes feel that I am being head-butted.  Therefore, the Speck has inherited a certain, ahem, hardheadedness.  Not from ME of course.  Right, Mama...?

--I get heartburn so I know the Speck will arrive with a full head of hair.  

--I know the Speck loves cheese because, well, at this point how could he not?

--I am still escaping some of the more common uncomfortable symptoms so I know that the Speck, though hardheaded, is also rather obliging. 

--Even time I see a diagram of how big the Speck is at this point, I know that he is probably not any more comfortable than I am.  But luckily for him, at least he doesn't know any different.  

Some less Speck-specific things I have learned recently are:

--If you ever hope/plan/want to be with child (or are), do not, for the sake of your mental health, read ANY birth stories involving placental abruptions.  Learn from my inadvertent mistake.  

--Some people spend, shall we say, a LOT of money on nurseries.  In what will be news to no one, we are not doing this.  (More on that when we actually have something to show, instead of a variety of boxes on the floor.)

So you see, I am learning new things all the time.  And not just from obsessively reading baby how-to books.  Luckily I still have about 8 more weeks to figure out how to work my new neck pillow:

It seems KIND of big for my neck...

Maybe it's more of a lumbar thing?

Or maybe it's a belly shelf!

(The dead eyes in these pictures are courtesy of a nasty cold.  Of COURSE I finally take pictures on a day I feel like death.)