Best Library Books of the Week

 

 

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ImageThis.  This book wins first prize for the month of February.

My personal favorite author, Jasper Fforde, delivers again with the seventh installment of his fantastic Thursday Next series.

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The complex storyline, silliness, and smooth writing come together to purr inside the reader’s brain like a fluffy white cat lazing in a sunny window.

Last week, I read Jasper Fforde’s book The Last Dragonslayer, a young adult novel.  It was equally fantastic, and I wish he had been writing these books when I was a young adult!  I can, and will read them as he writes them now.  It was totally last week’s book of the week!

When I visit the library, I pick up whatever books I have on hold.  I also look through the graphic novels and comic books.  Today I picked up a couple superhero ones, XMen and Green Lantern; last week I picked up a book called Chicken With Plums, by Marjane Satrapi.  I read and loved her autobiographical novel Persepolis a few years ago, so when I saw this on the shelf I grabbed it and added it to my stack.

A hilarious series I discovered recently by Joann Sfar, Lewis Trondheim, and Manu Larcenet, called Dungeon, is thoroughly enjoyable.

As a former Dungeons & Dragons enthusiast, this satiric look into the ‘Dungeon Attraction’ makes me happy on so many levels.  My kids and I enjoy the Sardine series by Sfar and Emmanuel Guibert, so this was another book I just picked up without flipping through, because I knew it would be good!

Lastly, this week, I nabbed a comic rendition of Douglas Adams’ HItchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  I love love love this kooky series, and I love love love when books I love are made into comics!

From radio show to novel to tv series to movie to comic, this Guide has the look and feel of a comic strip, with the Guide entries in spazzy colorful splashes.  I can tell I will enjoy this!

Comics and graphic novels offer a great story packed in a smaller reading format, for quicker absorption and enjoyment.  I love reading these around whatever longer novel I’m reading, for lovely little jaunts into fantasy, or mystery, or horror, or a real biographical story.

I’m in it for the stories, which get all jumbled up in my brain, mixing with my own memories, to make me into a more Human human. <3

Tea of the Week

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20130213-155042.jpgThis week I am drinking Coconut Chai Black Tea, made by one of my favorite tea companies, Zhena’s Gypsy Tea.

I love this variety.  It is spicy and flavorful, delicious on its own, or with a little coconut milk and honey.  My favorite way of drinking it is brewing two teabags my 16 oz aladdin travel mug:

aladdin 16 oz travel mug, full of hot water and yummy gypsy tea

aladdin 16 oz travel mug, full of hot water and yummy gypsy tea

Then pouring a mugful at a time into my nice teacup:

I love buying one or two pretty mugs at thrift stores.  It makes me feel like I'm having a tea party whenever I take a sip :)

I love buying one or two pretty mugs at thrift stores. It makes me feel like I’m having a tea party whenever I take a sip :)

Someday I’m going to buy myself a nice little teapot to brew tea in.  Someday.

This Coconut Chai leaves a nice warm feeling all over, and a yummy spicy aftertaste that lingers long enough to make you forget you’re sitting at a folding table, in a folding chair, in your living room, in the cold midwest winter.  Mmmm…

My dear little house familiar, Tardis (Ardi, informally), moved her bed over and set up camp at my feet under my folding craft/laptop/all purpose table.

Tardis sleeping peacefully, between chewing on anything she can find, and climbing all over the couch with muddy paws.

Tardis sleeping peacefully, between chewing on anything she can find, and climbing all over the couch with muddy paws.

For some reason, when we decided to finally buy some kind of comfortable seating for our living room, we found and bought a loveseat from a nice couple through craigslist.org … It came with a white slipcover.  White.  It quickly became a bit speckled with random dirt from the kids, (curling up on the couch before removing shoes will do this quick!) but now, with a dog in the mix, it’s covered with foot and claw marks.  She loves to run around the yard, then dash inside and run up the couch to the top, where she parades back and forth, looking out the window.  It is now decidedly off-white, almost polka-dotted with brown.

Ugh.

It grosses me out a little, and no matter how many times I tuck a blanket into the cracks, it always gets pulled off and makes no difference.  I just let it go.  Can’t win ‘em all, especially with kids and dogs!

I just sit and sip my tea and ‘zoom out’.

8^)

TV Show Characters Don’t Always Drink Coffee …

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But when they do, it’s usually in a HUGE cup!

look at that enormous cup!

from ABC’s Castle

Castle is the biggest offender.  Last season it seemed like every show opened with Rick bringing Kate an enormous cup of coffee.  This season is a little better, they spend more time in the precinct drinking mugs from the espresso machine.  The mug sizes there are pretty big too.

The other night, as I watched Once Upon a Time, when Snow White and Prince Charming had gotten some cups of coffee from Granny’s Diner, I was delighted to see their cups were a reasonable 12oz size.

"Ah, decently sized cups of coffee."

ABC’s Once Upon A Time

It may seem a silly thing to pay any attention to, but portion sizes in popular television shows does have an impact on the viewers.  If you see your favorite character drinking an over-sized cup of sugary coffee drink, then see a McDonald’s ad for their crappy McCafe drinks, you’re probably more likely to get a bigger size next time you get one at all.

Try it!  The next time you watch your favorite show, pay attention to how the sizes of their portions.  You might be surprised!

blisssshhhhh

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Today while avoiding doing any actual work, I clicked around to LifeHacker, and found an article about Tetris and positive habits.

There are many things listed here that I try to do daily, such as acts of kindness, celebrating small victories, and being mindful of my mind.  I was in a bad mood yesterday as I walked around the local mega-chain store, looking for beads.  I saw someone walk by and thought something nasty and mean, immediately stopped, closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and apologized to them, in my head.  I said that I was sorry, and that I loved them.  Total stranger, just minding her own business, but I, in my crankiness, sent negative energy toward her, realized what I’d done, redacted it and sent love her way.  It made me feel better, and made me much more mindful of my thoughts throughout the rest of the evening.

I love learning about the human brain; the more I know about the actual processes, the better I am able to change bad habits and create positive new ones!

Speaking of good habits, I have been totally rocking my family’s food plan and grocery list.  This week, I used BigOven to find some recipes based on our daily meal themes, make a plan on the calendar, then compile a grocery list per meal, which I then added to my master grocery list.

The end result had 8 sections – five were actual meals, one listed lunchbox foods my son needed replenished, another listed all the ‘extra’ items, multi-use stuff like oatmeal and oil, and vitamins.  I used the last box to write a title and date of the trip all fancy-like.

The actual grocery shopping trip was not as elegant as my list was, in fact, it was pretty chaotic.  I had been going to the mega-chain to get everything in one trip, but now we are boycotting buying groceries from them because they’re trying to build another new store in the lovely downtown area, thus far untainted by their corporate evil-ness.  If said store was built, it would most likely run the other smaller grocery stores out of business!  One of the best salad bars in town is located in one of them, right off the square, so there’s no way I’m going to contribute to their demise!

Anyway, I loaded up my 8 year old bird, all my reusable shopping bags, my list, and myself into our minivan.  We stopped at the natural grocery first to get coconut and hemp milks, bean thread noodles,  and chocolate (very important.).  That’s always harrowing, even though they’ve expanded, it still  has the feel of a tiny little place, and little bird was being a little booger the whole time.  We got out without incident, stopped at chai latte and cocoa shack, then headed across town to the bigg-o grocery store.

This place is massive.  It’s as big as some warehouse membership grocery places I’ve seen, but is just a regular ol’ grocery store.  It has the best and biggest produce department in town, and we had fun poking at the jackfruit and other exotic fruits.  Little bird, now hopped up on cocoa as well as just being 8, was running the cart into people and things, seeing what happened if he pulled on the scale as hard as he could (“I think I broke it..”), and just generally not listening to anything I said.  We eventually got done with everything but the frozen vegetables (which we eat for lunch if there are no supper leftovers), when we ran into a very nice older gentlemen giving out samples of salsa and chips.  Little bird loves free samples, so he immediately planted himself in front of the booth and said, “Yes, please, I would like some salsa.” (he’s so polite to anyone that is not his mother!) We both stopped for a few minutes to chat about salsa and the day and the people, and had a very nice little time there.  The salsa was actually amazing and Little bird was gushing about how great the sea salt chips were (“Those sea salt chips really helped me calm down!”), so we got a container of artichoke garlic salsa and a bag of chips, said our thank you very much-es, and went toward the frozen aisle to collect the rest of our groceries.

All said, I only deviated from my list on the salsa (I was going to buy tortilla chips anyway), and some locally-made yogurt.  As we maneuvered out of the confusing parking lot, Little bird commented, “I think that guy should get a thumbs-up!”  I agreed.

Taco Tuesday and Homeschoolin’

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Tuesday suppers are taco-themed in my house. To save time and money, I devised a theme for every night of the week, thanks to blogs, pinterest, and my sister for the idea. Taco Tuesday doesn’t mean we eat only tacos, au contraire, ‘taco’ is only a starting point. Since we don’t usually have ground beef or turkey in the house, I usually begin with beans. Then, I add vegetables; tonight was a light meal with only onions and lettuce added. I sometimes slow cook the beans in my crockpot, or on the stove, with lots of spices – my favorite blend is a chili powder, ground cumin, celery salt, fresh ground pepper, oregano, a dash of liquid smoke, and some garlic and onion powders. If we have some greek yogurt on hand, we put that on top, then eat the beans with corn or flour tortillas, or I’ll make a taco casserole or taco soup! When I’m feeling really fancy, I’ll actually add taco shells, shredded cheese, sliced black olives and avocados to my grocery list for the week, and we mustn’t forget salsa! I’m allergic to tomatoes, so I get salsa verde for myself, plain mild salsa for my little birds, and something spicy for Father Bird. We use salsa so much, we almost always have it around.

A recent favorite hot sauce in the house is Chipotle Tabasco; this spicy sauce is smoky and similar in flavor to barbecue sauce. A little goes a long way, in most any dish. BigLittle Bird was dared by his younger brother to ‘drink’ the tiny bit left in the bottle tonight; he enjoyed it so much he asked me to get more at the store.

For Little Bird, I picked up a couple of ‘hard work prizes’, which I give to him when he’s had a few good days of homeschool. He really enjoys puzzles, so I got a Boba Fett puzzle I found in Target’s dollar section. The other item I found was a dry erase board shaped like a hand mirror, which I thought would be nice for spelling words and math problems as a change from paper and pencil. Little Bird is loving homeschool, at least most days! He is a super squirmy, loud kid – these traits didn’t fit in well with public school, so for second grade, he is here with Mama Bird learning and enjoying his days. Last year was pretty rough on the little dude, he began having trouble with vomiting every week. He was never actually sick, but the nurse would still call me and have me pick him up halfway through the day. I took him to see a doctor, and she said he was probably just nervous or anxious about something, and it was manifesting through barfing. As per her instructions, I told the school nurse to just let him lie down in her office, and if he didn’t have a fever or continue feeling sick, to let him go back to his day. This worked, and I didn’t get any more calls; when I picked him up, he would cheerfully tell me that he did or didn’t throw up that day, and what part of school he missed out on. This was quite frustrating, as I knew frequent vomiting could harm his guts and teeth. So, he had a fun summer, and we stayed home this year. Lots of research online and in books, weekly trips to the library, a pottery class at the local Art Museum, a trip to the teacher supply store, and an online learning website subscription later, Little Bird is reading easily, enjoying math and science, and loves telling people about homeschool with NO THROWING UP!

I will finish this by saying that BigLittle Bird is quite comfortable in public school. He went to preschools and daycares much more than Little Bird did, skipped kindergarten, and began first grade at age 7. After spending most of the year in the remedial reading group, he worked his way up and finished the year in the top group, reading voraciously. He is now in 5th grade, reading at a 10th grade level (according to whatever testing they do ?), loving math and science, and doing well with spelling, which he thought he was horrible at. He complains about school, but always is quick to give several reasons not to do homeschool when I mention it to him. I have a sneaking suspicion that he thinks I’m too dumb to teach him, silly guy is turning into a teenager already!

Here’s to silly boys birds, tacos, and fun with learning! *cheers*

A Little Bird Told Me …

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Tonight, I’d like to talk about water.  Yes, water. Thanks to Father Bird’s cousin in California, I have been drinking only water this month (with the exception of two small cups of tea); I have managed to give up my daily coffee habit, and a regular alcohol habit.  No soda (which I very rarely drank anyway), almost no tea.  Cousin dear challenged all her facebook acquaintances to drink only water this month, for a health exercise.  I have no idea how many of them kept with it, but I am proud of myself and impressed with how well I’ve been doing with this. I feel more alert, especially in the evenings, with no liquid caffeine. I say liquid because I do eat a fair bit of chocolate, something like a half bar of dark chocolate a day.  I had been having at least one cup of strong coffee a day, sometimes more, especially if i got gas station coffee (gag), or coffeeshop money bombs.  From now on, though, no more than one a week, out, hopefully with a friend.  I will be a social drinker, haha.  Social coffee drinking seems like it would be a good solution to not slip back into an addiction habit cycle, with coffee and alcohol.  No more half-glasses of wine while I cook dinner (or lunch!).  Sticking to water and green smoothies at home will be darn good for me.

In February, I’ll try giving up dairy as well.  I went without for so long when my family lived in northwest Washington state, which was generally much healthier than southwest Missouri is.  I did everything from scratch, mostly vegan and organic, for so long, I think I’ve earned a microwave.  I know I can do it, ‘frontier woman style’, washing clothes by hand and all.  I guess I didn’t have to haul water … Anyway, I’m enjoying my microwave. Now I am working toward finding the Ozarks balance between uber-healthy WA and down-home MO.

The dairy-free challenge, combined with the new drinks habit, should help me greatly in losing the 10-15 pounds I gained this fall and winter.  I also have a calendar set up to track exercise, writing and drawing practice, as well as the daily food and drink habits. I’m excited!  I turn into a 28 year old next month, and I plan to be a new woman by then.  Slave no longer to drink and snack!

A dream of eating cake and sipping coffee at a tiny boutique teashop cafe in the trendy neighborhood consumes me sometimes.  Feeling dainty and lovely instead of rough and bloated makes me much happier.  Free of fear from disease, quick and light on my feet, ready to run at a moments whim, jump and spin, laugh and sing, I used to run through the wood on trails worn by countless souls, up the hill in the park… I long to be that again, and share it with others again.

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A man, living in a large city on the west coast, shivers in his sleeping bag.  Supposedly rated for 20 degree weather, perhaps not continually for months, the tough material began wearing thin weeks ago.  A dream filled his head once, of living free, without ties, in the urban wild; here he is, and has been, and it is everything he dreamed, and more.  More boredom than he had imagined possible, filling his time meeting and talking with the creatures around him, wherever he goes, causing little trouble, provoking thoughts and discussion.  The drugs he played with once have become mundane, and now he thrives on connection to all things, to that one thing that is all things, that ties it all together, that place in his mind, reached only by quiet contemplation, that little voice, roaring in his ears.

A city of tents, torn apart and confiscated by insects in riot gear; a quiet community living freely under a troll bridge becomes a toll booth separating them from their only shelter.  Banded together through circumstances innumerable, different and varied, but ending up with them all pitching in together, roughing it and attempting to survive

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Pandora ads.  Time for bed.

Ding ding ding ding.

A Little Bird Sings

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Hello, world.  Welcome to the blog of one little mama bird, building a nest from scraps, to make a home on the WebNet.

I am an enthusiast of many, many things, mostly parenting and all the wildness that comes with it, cleaning, cooking, crafting, frugality, DIY-ing, laughs, exercise, gardening, learning, teaching, giving.

Tonight, as with all other nights, before I tuck my little birds into bed, I read to them.  Father bird asked me to read a bit of Shakespeare, ‘All The World’s A Stage’; I’d never actually read that (poem?) before, but I love reading Mr. S’s work aloud, so I launched into it, full voice.  That Serious Performance voice quickly turned to giggles because that piece is so hilarious!  William sure did have a way with humor.  BigLittle bird heard the word ‘shank’ and fell to pieces pretending to stab me (funny and morbid, he’s obsessed with pantomiming shanking right now… a phase he will grow out of, just like all the other weird stuff he’s mimicked!), and pretty much ignored the rest of the poem.  Littlest bird, (at 8, he’s the youngest by 13 days), enjoys hearing the poems, and will actually sit quietly in contemplation of the words and rhythms. The book I found at our local library (long live public libraries) is fantastic, it’s full of wonderful classic and modern poems by a variety of wordsmiths.  You can find the Barefoot Book of Classic Poems at amazon.com.

I highly recommend it!

Reading poetry to kids is rewarding, they might not like it at first, but with a proper voice and rhythm, it becomes engrossing and thoroughly enjoyable.  As I understand it, reading aloud to kids helps them speak and read better, and encourages them to communicate audibly and verbally better.

My mother read to me at bedtime as a child, and I can still hear her voice reading quietly to me from picture books and novels, and especially the beautifully illustrated Childcraft books.  When I was in high school (where she taught math classes), I would fall asleep in Geometry class, which I attributed to her lecture voice lulling me to sleep!  A strange consequence of being read to, but certainly didn’t turn me off of reading!  Because my mother read to me, I became a voracious reader, reading above my school level, as my own BigLittle bird does now!  A bit heavy on the Fantasy genre side, but so did I, until I grew up a bit.

Now the birddog is sleeping beside me, and my first blog post is done.  Good night, rest easy.