Thursday, December 13, 2012

My Wrapped Gifts

You know how around Christmas your recycle bin overflows with paper products? It starts with the boxes from the gifts that were shipped to you, then it ends up being full of the packing material (be it plastic bubble-wrap or brown paper) and in the end it is full of wrapping paper after the Christmas day tornado of unwrapping. This year I decided to skip a few trips out to the recycle bin. Every time a box came I carefully unfolded the paper used as padding and stashed it in my gift wrapping supplies. I may have even ironed some of it if it was extra wrinkled.
So when it came time to wrap my gifts I opened up my sewing table to wrap on, pulled out all the brown craft paper, and got down to business. If anyone is wondering why my sewing table is so beat up, it's because it's sixty years old. Someday I'll do a post about my amazing Pfaff 130 which is also sixty years old but sews better than any machine I've ever used.
I printed the super cute labels for free from fresh picked whimsey. Then I just cut them out and attached them with tape.
My helpful husband was out getting super secret deals at the mall (he paid cash so I can't even spy on what store he was shopping at on the bank statement) and stopped at the dollar store to get some ribbon.
Whenever I have a gift that won't fit in a box I already have, I raid the pantry for cereal boxes. The cereal isn't any fresher in the box so I just make sure the bag is sealed and put it back on the shelf.
When they're all done and dressed up you may never guess that the paper was leftover from packaging. And the best part about it? My wrapping cost $1.07 for the ribbon. That's it. And I'm not double contributing to the recycle bin with even more paper. It feels good giving gifts to both my loved ones, and to the environment.

Monday, December 10, 2012


I hate that it's been over a month without any blog posts. But school comes first. I am done with two of my classes for this semester. I just have a few more papers to finish up, a final Tuesday afternoon, and a final Wednesday morning. Then I'll have all the time in the world to blog. And catch up on cleaning my house. And make all those Christmas presents that I haven't had time for. And do all those fun Christmas activities that I have planned. Those should make lots of fun posts. Thanks for sticking around even though I'm mostly absent.

Friday, November 9, 2012

My Snow Family

When I got home from work I snuggled onto the couch and started knitting. Then my amazing husband made me grandma chocolate, which is what I call Mexican hot chocolate because it's called Abuelita and has a picture of a grandma on it. It's pretty much the best drink ever. After awhile of relaxing, I decided that Doug and I should make a snow family. He made a snow person before I got home from work but she needed some friends. So I put on my hat, coat, and boots, and he put on his jacket and flip flops and we started building. An hour later we had a handsome mustached snowman, a snow-hound, and a snow cat. Aren't they cute?
From left to right: Snow Doug, Snow Biscuit, Snow Emily, and Snow Penny
It's amazing how accurately this family depicts our actual family dynamics. I'm usually keeping the dog away from the cat and the cat somehow always ends up between Doug and I, especially when we're sleeping. Doug is farthest from the dog because she annoys him the most often.
The Snow-Hound

Snow me? Yes, it is. Do you like my beautiful leaf outfit?

Snow Biscuit

Snow Doug, note the handsome mustache

Our Happy Snow Family

Even though it's blurry, this is how light it was at 9:30 at night without the flash

No News IS Good News!

I just got word that my wonderful best friend will only have to have 10 shots and not intense chemo as long as her body reacts well. This is such a relief.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, check it out here and here.

No News is Good News?

First, thank you to everyone who has been worried about me. I didn't want to make people worry but I had to get it off my chest. I just couldn't bring myself to talk about the specifics of  it yet. I couldn't force myself to write down what was happening. But now I will.

In September my best friend of 12 years excitedly told me she was pregnant. I was happy for her but also nervous because the father wasn't the greatest guy in my opinion. But I supported her because I love her and after seeing how much support she was getting from her family I knew she could do it. In the middle of October she went to hear her baby's heart beat but they only heard the hum of the machines. So they did an ultrasound and found that she had a molar pregnancy and that there was no baby. She had surgery the next day and had to go back to the hospital with complications after the outpatient surgery. She was in the ICU for awhile because of a thyroid storm and fluid in her lungs. Everything was fixed (except her broken heart) and she was released from the hospital a few days later.

They did follow up tests to make sure her hCG levels were returning to normal. But they weren't, which is an indication of a cancer called Choriocarcinoma. She went in for CT scans earlier this week. If it hasn't spread she will get shots of a low dose drug to kill the rest of it in her uterus. I'm assuming they'd use methotrexate since it's specifically mentioned in the Wikipedia article about Choriocarcinoma. If it has spread she will have to undergo full on intense chemotherapy with the hair loss and everything. Since she had problems with her lungs in the hospital they're more worried about it having spread.

So, it's Friday and the CT scans results are supposed to be here. But for some reason they didn't do all of the scans that they needed to because of a paperwork mix-up or some garbage, so she had to go back to get more scans done. And we're all still waiting for the results...

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

So Many Things

I feel like so many things are going on that I should have a ton of stuff to post about. But then when I sit down and start to write, I realize that everything I feel so busy with is mental. I'm not doing a ton of fun activities like over the summer, but I'm doing a lot of reading, writing, and thinking for school. I'm thinking about my future and often about my past. And it's hard. The first time I was in school I felt like I could take a long time because I had graduated from high school with so many college credits. Now, I feel like I can't mess up. My semesters are planned so rigidly that I cannot fall behind. I'm doing well so far so I shouldn't worry but it's so much pressure.

And then there's "The Thing". The thing that I refuse to talk about because if I don't talk about it, it will go away, right? "The Thing" that I keep hoping isn't true and keep praying can't exist but I won't know until Friday. "The Thing" that will change lives, not my life the most, but it will definitely affect me. It's the thing that makes me stare out the window of the bus but not see a thing that passes by. It's the thing that makes me shake my head in the middle of a lecture so I can focus again. It's the thing that makes my stomach hurt, that I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about. "The Thing" is at the point where, if it's there, there is only one way to fix it. A hard, painful, long way. A tearful, stressful, sick way. A way that breaks you down so far you may wish you were dead from the very thing you're trying to fix. I keep hoping with all my heart that "The Thing" in this case is just a myth. I keep reminding myself not to be upset because we don't know yet. And I just keep waiting...

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

I don't know what I am (a ballerina? a missing model from America's Next Top Model? an evil queen? a girl who didn't know what to be but did cool makeup and wore black?). It looks cool and scary right? Thanks for the pictures Rachel! (The little bear is my sweetie nephew Chai).

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Random Acts of Craftiness: Copper Pipe Make-up Brush Holder

This month's random act of craftiness challenge was to make an original creation with odds and ends from the hardware store. I have wanted a holder for my make-up brushes so I set out to find something that would work. I drove over to ReStore and found a beautiful copper pipe for $1.50. It even had some verdigris patches which gave it more personality.
My brushes were in a copper pail with the rest of my make-up but they kept getting lost in the shuffle.
Every morning I had to empty the whole bucket and lay everything out on the counter then put it all away when I was finished (which rarely happened). Everything usually stayed piled on the counter because it had to go back in such a specific order. The bigger items in the middle, smaller items around, then the brushes filled in the spaces.
Now I don't have to worry about the brushes getting damaged because they're next to the pail instead of in it! Woohoo!
I started out using a hack saw to cut my pipe. It was a long and unhappy process. At the end of my patience with sawing I opened a hole about 1/3 of the way around the pipe, stuck in tin snips and cut the rest of the way around. That resulted in a very uneven edge but it was kind of artsy so I left it. I just won't let kids use my make-up any time soon. After the frustration of the hacksaw and the tin snips I decided to bend the final piece of pipe in half.
I arranged the pipe pieces in a pretty way and hot glued the end pieces to the middle bent piece. Then I stuck in my brushes and viola! A beautiful solution to a first world problem.
It probably would have been easier if I would have gone to a normal hardware store and got pre-cut pieces of pipe but then it wouldn't have been as full of frustration and cursing whimsy and personality.

Check out what everyone else made here!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Our House Guest

Today we had an unexpected guest grace our house with his presence. After I got home from school I was relaxing on the couch with my laptop when I glanced up and saw a furry, four legged creature with whiskers and a tail on the floor. Seeing fur and a tails is a common occurrence at my house since we have a cat and a dog. This guest was in addition to my furry, four legged pets. It was a small brown mouse. I said with surprise, "Oh, Doug, I just saw a mouse." I'm not afraid of mice but I don't enjoy them being in my house. At this time of year mice always find their way in from the cold and end up in our old basement apartment. Usually the fearless tuna eater Biscuit kills our mouse guests before we notice them running around. Doug went and got Biscuit and I went into the other room so I didn't have to see the mouse meet his fate. But for some reason Biscuit was uninterested. So Doug put on work gloves and tried to pull Mr. Mouse out of his bookshelf house. It wasn't working so Doug asked me to shove my ombrella in the crack to scare him out. He scurried his way into the container that Doug had waiting for him.
Isn't he a cutie? We kind of wanted to keep him as a pet but didn't think it would be fair to him since we also have a cat. Doug gave that mouse a cookie (but it did not ask for milk) and we took him on a car ride to the field next to my work. Doug took him to a nice grassy knoll and opened the box. Mr. Mouse jumped out and ran off to find a new home.

I'm so grateful to have married a man who will spend an extra half hour capturing the mouse and releasing it into the wild instead of just killing it. I love animals so much and it's great to have a husband who is also kindhearted to all living things.

Which house guests have you had to relocate? Which ones do you wish you could relocate (I like my in-laws but I know some people would like to release theirs into a field) ?

Monday, October 15, 2012

I'm in!

I have been waiting to officially share the news because I didn't want to jinx anything but now everything is all clear. I have been accepted to the school of secondary education. What does that mean exactly? It means I'm on my way to being a teacher. You're saying "but it's only your first semester!" Well, you are correct. But, since I'm planning to finish in a short 5 semesters, including a jam packed summer, I needed to get going.

I met with the secondary education advisor at the beginning of September to make sure my planned schedule would work. I was originally planning on applying in the spring to start my education classes fall of 2013. He said it would work but that I could apply for spring semester and get started sooner if I wanted to. And so I did. I turned in my application by October 1, had my interview on October 3, and got my acceptance letter on October 10. Today I got fingerprinted for my background check, on Friday I take a pre-assesment to figure out what I already know, and on Monday the 29th at 12:01am I register for classes. I'm so excited!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

An Evening with Lois Lowry

Yes, for real, I finally got to meet my favorite author Lois Lowry. This post is going to be kind of long because I'm so excited to write down everything I learned from her and to share it will all of you. I was hanging on every word. My wonderful local library hosted Ms. Lowry as a speaker and then had a book signing. I invited my lovely mom to attend this event with me because she is reading Number the Stars with her elementary school reading group.
The most unflattering picture of both of us but the best one I got.
Ms. Lowry spoke for about 45 minutes, had a short question and answer portion, and then signed books. My mom took wonderful notes while she was speaking which I will now summarize with the help of my awesome memory. Everything may not be exact so don't quote me without further research, but I'll try to be fairly accurate.
Lois Lowry while speaking. Unfortunately it was a night of unflattering photos. Anyone want to get me a new camera?
On October 3rd Son, the final book in The Giver quartet, was released. The purpose of Ms. Lowry's visit was to promote that final book and give us some insight as to how all of the books came about. The most common question she gets from readers is "How did you come up with the idea for The Giver?" It came about when she asked herself what she always asks herself before writing a story, "What if..." Ms. Lowry had been vising her aging and forgetful father in a nursing home in Virginia. She and her brother had given their father a photo album with pictures from throughout his life to help him remember things, including his favorite car, a Chrysler 300 that cost $3000, the same amount as her first year of tuition at Brown. While looking through the album he saw a photo of Lois' sister Helen with Lois. He remembered who Helen was but wondered what happened to her. Lois had to tell him that her sister had died. When he heard this news the grief and loss was as if it were the first time he heard about it. A few moments later he came across another photo of Lois and her sister as teenagers and again wondered what happened to Helen. Ms. Lowry repeated that her sister had died. Again, her father reacted as if it were the first time he had heard the news and was grief stricken. While she was driving back to the airport to go home to Boston she asked herself "What if there were a place where you could control memory? Where you could obliterate any frightening or sad memories?" And the basis for The Giver was created.

The character came to her as a twelve year old boy named Jonas. Whenever she thinks of a character they have a name when they come to her. She doesn't have to look up names in the phone book; her characters are born in her imagination with a name. The book had to take place in the future where a perfected community was possible. In the first few pages of Ms. Lowry's books she lets the reader know what the book is about and introduces a problem. She usually starts a book knowing the beginning and vaguely knowing the end but she makes up the middle without an outline because she likes surprises along the way.

Ms. Lowry hadn't planned on writing any sequels. The Giver was to be a stand alone book with an optimistic ending. But kids didn't like the ambiguity of the end. They wanted a concrete answer about Jonas' fate instead of imagining it for themselves (she then blamed TV for the loss of imagination).

The second book Gathering Blue also started with some "What if..." questions. What if a community didn't have the technology to make things better? What if they regressed and didn't have any technology, not even electricity? It is set in the same time period as The Giver but the community is totally opposite. Gathering Blue gave Lois Lowry a chance to let everyone know that Jonas was alive and well, even though it doesn't come right out and say it.

Ms. Lowry always liked the character of Matt in Gathering Blue. The third book Messenger becomes his story as a teenager.

Once people were satisfied with Jonas' well being, they wanted to know what happened to the baby Gabe. And so Son was written. Although it answers questions about Gabe it focuses on his mother's journey to find him. Ms. Lowry told a true story about a family whose four year old son went missing while camping in Maine. No trace of him was ever found. The loss of a child and never knowing what happened prompted Lowry to write Son from Gabe's mother's perspective. The working title of this book was actually Birth Mother but was changed to Son before publication, partially because Ms. Lowry didn't think any boys would read a book called Birth Mother (she was probably right).

So that's the story of The Giver quartet. Here are a few other interesting things I learned while she was speaking:
  • Only 5 authors, including Lois Lowry, have won the Newberry Award twice.
  • Autumn Sky  and A Summer To Die are autobiographical. 
  • It is easier for her to write a girl character.
  • Her son died in a military aircraft crash.
  • She started as a photo journalist.
  • The cover of Number the Stars is a photograph she took when she did portraits of children.
  • The sled at the end of The Giver is supposed to have a fantasy and magic about it.
  • Her favorite character in all of her books is Matt.
  • Only the natural objects in The Giver have color, an apple, flowers, the girls hair, his eyes. Man-made objects didn't need color.
  • The Giver can be read as a religious allegory, or not, depending on what you bring to the story. 
My all time favorite thing that she said while speaking was, "You're reading a different book than the one I wrote." She elaborated by saying that everyone brings different parts of their own lives to a story and they will have different insights because of it. I hope I will remember that when I'm an English teacher and that I will help my students have close relationships with the literature they read.

So after all the talking was the book signing. We had to wait for about an hour before it was our turn. I was so excited to be so close to such a literary master.
I'm almost there with my armful of books!

Oh! It's her! She's signing my books! It was a thrilling moment.
I can imagine she was super tired by this point. I was so appreciative of her time.

My mom got even more books signed, again, for me.
I am now the proud and grateful owner of The Giver, Gathering Blue, Messenger, and Son "For Emily, Lois Lowry."

Please remember that what I have said in this post is based on my memory and my mom's notes. Please verify any information before you claim it as fact. If you'd like to read more about Lois Lowry, you can visit her website here.

Who is your favorite author, favorite book, and why?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Random Acts of Craftiness: Jacks Lampshade

The day has arrived. It's the Random Acts of Craftiness due date. Luckily this is pass/fail based purely on participation. Even though I feel like I failed, I participated, so I passed, woohoo! When Erin gave us the assignment of crafting with game pieces I drew a blank. There were way too many options. Finally I thought of the the simple game of jacks, played with a ball and metal pointy thing, yes indeed, called jacks. I attempted to make a lampshade.
After much measuring I thought I knew how many jacks I needed. One jack every square inch should have added up to just over 90 jacks. So I ordered 96. Well... I should have ordered closer to 200, or maybe even 400 if I put them closer together.
Since I didn't know how this would turn out and I didn't want to sacrifice my existing shade, I built a wire frame for my lampshade. It just consisted of bending wires until they made a circle and some stands.
Then fishing line and a few mornings watching The Price is Right before school and this is what I ended up with.
I love the shape of jacks. They are so fun.
As you can see from this beauty shot, I didn't have enough to even get half way done. But I got the front side finished.

My husband likes them closer together. What do you think?
I have been so busy going back to school that this is as far as I got on this project (and I got this far on it this morning, on the linky party due date). I have intentions of buying more jacks and spending more time tying them together with fishing line while watching The Price is Right. I just haven't had time to do it yet. I think I'll change the shade to a different lamp though. This one has too much silver.

I'm super impressed with everyone's projects who have linked up so far. Good job crafters!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

An Answer to Mo


     I apologize for not answering your question on Tuesday before I got off the bus. I've thought about your question for the last two days. I was expecting to see you on the bus again today to give you an answer. For whatever reason you weren't there. But I still have an answer for you (even though you don't know about my blog because I don't give personal information to random people on the bus).

     The short answer is, I just do. I doubt you wanted such a brief answer when you asked "How do you keep doing it when school gets hard?" I don't think of any alternative. Quitting isn't an option. As soon as the thought of quitting crosses my mind, I throw it out like the month old Indian food in the depths of my refrigerator. I can either do my best or do my best. Those are the only two options I give myself.

     I used to get trapped comparing myself to other students. They'd go above and beyond, turning assignments in early, making study guides, and coming to school extremely early only to leave a few hours before they'd have to return the next day. I got so discouraged because I would never be a good student like they are. Then I realized that I'm not them. I don't have to do what they do to be a good student. I just have to do my personal best. I make goals for myself. If I don't meet those goals then I've let myself down. Instead of dwelling on it I remind myself that the next day I can do better than the day before and that's all that matters; improving myself every day with only my previous self to compare against.

     Think about all you've sacrificed to go to school. You came all the way from Tonga. Your parents got your started on the path to American citizenship. That's amazing! You seemed impressed that I already have a bachelors degree at 24 and that I'll have a second one in a little less than two years. But I'm impressed that you are in a whole new country, going to school, and learning the confusing bus system. Even though you're in your first semester, you've sacrificed enough that it's worth it for you to keep trying your best and to finish. Eventually you'll have enough classes finished that you're more than half way to graduating.

     There are people to help you. Parents, friends, classmates, teachers, advisers, and many other people invested in your education. But when it comes down to it, your name will be on the diploma and you will have to do the work to earn it. You have to want it.

     By going to school you will gain so much. You will gain knowledge about things you've never heard of before. You'll probably gain knowledge of things you never want to hear of again. Hopefully, you'll also gain the ability to keep learning, to think about issues from multiple perspectives, and to find solutions to tough problems.

Best of luck to you my single-serving friend and may the force be with you.




Friday, August 31, 2012

My Sweet New Ride

School started on Monday. And on Monday I also got a sweet new ride. No more little Chevy Cavalier for me.
Yes, I now ride the bus. Luckily I don't drive the bus or there would be a few cars mowed down. Why do I ride the bus? The biggest reason is I don't want to end up in this crazy parking lot. The roads leading to campus look similar to all the parked cars; completely congested and not moving.
Another reason I ride the bus is because public transportation is better for the environment. I'd be one person in a car making pollution. Instead I'm one person on a bus with twenty other people making our carbon footprint go down. I'd ride my bike but there is way too big of a hill to go up for my cute little pink cruiser with no gears.

How do you get where you're going?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

I Contributed to Science!

At the end of June I blogged about having "Adventures on the Mountain" and mentioned the endangered Boreal Toad. The pictures that I took are now in the Monty L. Bean science museum collection!
The yellow card goes in a filing cabinet as a physical record of the specimen. There is also a computer program with all the information available to anyone with internet access. It hasn't been updated since my specimen was entered but should be sooner than later. I'll post a link when it's available.
Normally when specimens are collected they get preserved in ethanol and placed in the jars. You can see some of them in the background of the picture. It's really gory to see all those dead reptile and amphibian bodies. Our photos were safely wrapped in paper towels and stored in the same kind of jar. In a hundred years when some herpetologist studies bufo boreas he or she will know that on June 27, 2012 there were some on Manning Meadow. Yay! I helped science!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Coffee Filter Lamp

This unfortunately was not an original idea. But I really liked it when I saw it a few places so I decided to make it. I don't remember where I first saw this project, it was over two years ago. Just know that many other people have made it.

I started out with only four items. Coffee filters, hot glue sticks, a hot glue gun, and a paper lantern.
Coffee Filters
Hot glue sticks
Paper Lantern
Hot glue gun
I started at the bottom and worked my way up. I just shoved my finger in the middle of each filter to make a point, put a dab of glue on it, and let it cool. Then I did it over and over and over again.
Making a point in the middle with my index finger
After one session of gluing I only was a fourth finished. I knew this was going to take a long time, but I really had no idea.
Finally, after a few more evenings of gluing, I was finished! I had a beautiful big fluffy snowball of coffee filters to light the corner of my bedroom.
I bought a light kit at Ikea for $5 and hung it based on the instructions. Then I was good to go; Flipped the switch and "let there be light". Woohoo!