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Minimalist Parenting Book Launch Party

Minimalist Parenting Signed Book

Happy Monday! I hope you had a lovely weekend! I did something a little out of the ordinary this weekend, and decided to attend the launch party for a book called Minimalist Parenting. Have you heard of it? Since I recently began using twitter again, I was seeing links from one of the people I follow, who happens to be co-author Asha Dornfest of Parenthacks. I love the idea of minimalist parenting. There is so much information overload these days – books, experts, web sites, opinions, self-tests, studies… how can a parent who wants the best for his or her children not get overwhelmed?

Anyway, my husband was off fishing on Saturday so I had to take the kids with me. I admit I almost didn’t go. It was held so close to bedtime, but I knew it was a book I’d want to read, plus I wanted to support my fellow Portlander. And I’m glad I did! I got to meet Asha (who was so friendly, and completely gracious about my kids jumping off the stage while she was giving her talk) and got a signed, personalized copy! I’ve only just started the book, but I am already looking forward to the chapters on “Minimalizing your Home” and “Meal Planning for Real Life.” I truly think that anyone who comes to read here at Paperseed would find Minimalist Parenting an easy, thoughtful guide that focuses on whats important to us as individuals and parents.

Want to learn more? You can check out the Minimalist Parenting web page here, or join me in doing MinCamp, a free companion workshop which includes a different daily task each day for 14 days.  I signed up on Saturday and got my first email today. The task took only a few minutes and included an exercise in narrowing down what my personal priorities are as a parent. It seems simple, but we all know writing things down helps to keep us focused, even if we’re off track (as I know I get. A lot!). If you do end up reading the book, I’d love to know what you think of it!

P.S. Good news! Asha has provided a downloadable copy of Minimalist Parenting for one lucky winner. Just leave a comment on this giveaway post before Friday at 5pm PST to enter!

P.S.S This post is not a paid review, just my own personal opinion and experience.

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The Dirty Life

I’m reading The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food, and Love. I love books like this, following someone’s journey through their food and lifestyle choices. I admire their efforts and their resolve. The stories that bind it all together seem so exotic, so unlike my own life and food choices. While I like the idea of lifestyle eating, I don’t have the will or the discipline to keep it up for long. I guess that is another reason I like food memoirs, it gets me trying foods and food processes that I don’t normally follow. It makes me think.

My food choices are all over the board. I’ll never be a vegetarian or vegan (shudder). I like meat and dairy too much. While the idea of a raw food diet may be cerebrally appealing, I don’t have the time, energy or tastebuds to stick to it. Basically, I buy what I think will taste good, whether fresh, fried, processed, or whatever. That doesn’t mean I’m a completely unhealthy though. I try to balance it all out. I try to be mostly responsible, choosing cage-free and local and/or organic where I can. However, I rarely hesitate to cross boundaries either. Just last week, for example, I took the kids to the farmer’s market and by the end had a brimming bag full of summer-ripe produce. But for lunch on the way home we made a pit-stop through the Wendy’s drive through. Even I can see the irony in that.

Image from here.



Look what I came home with! Have you seen these before? I hadn’t, and actually, since they weren’t signed, I didn’t even know what they were until I paid for them. Gooseberries! After reading Hungry Monkey (hilarious!) and now The Spice Necklace, I guess I’m feeling a little food adventurous.

So what, exactly is a gooseberry? Well, to me, it looks like a prehistoric grape, with a thicker, veined, and spiney skin (sort of like nettles). It also has a lot more seeds, and a somewhat sour flavor. They can be eaten raw, but most often I think they are cooked into desserts. In the end, I made a simple gooseberry syrup and used it to make a Gooseberry Fool (substituting sour cream for creme fraiche) and enjoyed the rest in a Gooseberry San Pellegrino soda.

Processing gooseberries takes some time. To make the syrup, you trim the top and bottom of each berry, and then slice it in half. Thankfully, they cook and mash down quickly, maybe 5-10 minutes. After straining out the seeds and skin, my pint of gooseberries yielded about one cup of syrup. Here are several gooseberry recipes that also look good:

Gingered Gooseberry Fool

Gooseberry Jam

Gooseberry Meringue Pie

Gooseberry Ginger Ale

Baked Gooseberry and Ginger Nut Cheesecake

Gooseberry streusel cake with elderflower syrup


Heat Wave

We’re suffering through a heat wave in Portland right now. So far we’ve gotten by with only fans, but tomorrow I’m guessing the AC will get its first run of the season. Chloe’s lovin’ it, though. Yesterday she got to play in the nearby park fountain for the second time, although she will still quite timid. All of the jets except four are quite forceful, and the four tiny jets were crowded with other babies, toddlers and parents. So, today we broke out our new Melissa & Doug Blossom Sprinkler. I bought two on a whim back in March, and gave the second as a birthday gift. It is everything that I’d hoped for. Right now we’re keeping the flow low, so Chloe can get used to it, but it also goes big, and the sprinkler heads are soft and flexible for little feet. I think we’re going to get a lot of use out of it this summer, and since losing our trees, I’m sure our grass is going to thank us.

On another note, I recieved a lot of really insightful advice in the comments of my recent Maybe I should have spanked her post. I appreciated reading every one, and gleaned some good information.  It also spurred me to look at some “raising toddler” help books at the library. The one I’m currently reading is The Happiest Toddler on the Block by Harvey Karp, MD. I was really impressed with how well the techniques from his other book and DVD worked when Chloe was a newborn. I’ve gotten through the first four chapters so far, basically presenting the idea that parents should act as an “ambassador” to their children (vs. being a buddy, or a boss), and how to communicate respectfully using the “Fast Food rule” and “Toddler-ese.” To be honest, I was skeptical about the “Toddler-ese,” but I had an opportunity to try it during dinner tonight. Chloe must have hurt her mouth somehow and was crying. Daddy tried to distract her with redirection, which usually works, but she just continued crying. It was my opportunity to give toddler-ese a try. To my surprise, Chloe responded by pausing mid-wail, which was just long enough for Daddy to redirect her again with the promise of a cookie (it was the end of dinner, after all). Whoa! Was this just a coincidence? Hard to tell. I plan on trying it again in other situations, and if it works even half the time, then I’ll be happy.


The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner

I just finished reading Stephanie Meyer’s novella The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner. I’m sure almost everyone now is familiar with the author of the Twilight series, which I thoroughly enjoyed. It was kind of weird reading from my computer monitor, though, instead of from a book. I don’t know how Kindle users do it. It just doesn’t feel right. Or maybe it is different if you can take it with you, instead of reading from a computer desk. Anyhow, it was a good, quick read, and certainly gives a unique, alternate perspective. I’m not sure it would be as good if you haven’t read Eclipse, but if you have, you’ll find the pieces fit together nicely (except where the story refers to Edward as a redhead. What’s that about?).

From now through July 5th, the author is making the novella available to read for free, which is how I read it. Good thing, too, because my husband already gives me grief about the other 4 books taking up our limited shelf space.


What nifty device can you make with paper, film and a Coke can?

I found a very interesting book on the new arrival shelf at the library yesterday. A book called Build Fun Paper Cameras: Take Eye-Catching Pinhole Photos. My first thought was Hmm, those look pretty cool! My second thought was They still make 35mm film?! It is almost hard for me to believe that everyone just doesn’t use digital these days. I love the instant satisfaction of seeing an image onscreen (especially handy when I notice a detail that needs fixing). Film cameras don’t give you that amount of control, and that idea is… intriguing.

So, I’m curious. I decided to check the book out and experiment. What if I had to physically rely on myself to manage the exposure (and not just tell my digital camera how long to do it for me)? I mean literally open and close the shutter by hand, and not with the press of a button? What would it be like to manually make my own equipment? And wind the film myself? I’m guessing the worst that can happen will be that none of my photos come out, but even so I’ll have made some pretty nifty little paper cameras. So, if you’ll excuse me – I have a Coke can to cut and pierce, film to find and purchase, and 8 sheets of freshly printed card stock to cut, fold and assemble.

To be continued…


Reading List

What a week. Its has been unusually busy around here, but overall, that is a good thing. Despite this, I was able to steal some time away to finish two really good books. Reading is a guilty pleasure these days. Ideally, I’d read during Chloe’s naps or after she’s gone to bed, but sometimes other things like work, or feeding myself takes precedent, and Chloe is, unfortunately, a short napper.

It is not very often that I’ll find a book that truly draws me in like these last two have. The first one was Shanghai Girls by Lisa See. I really liked her first book Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. I remember being riveted by the torturous process of footbinding as suffered by a little girl who had no choice but to endure the agony of having her foot broken and reshaped just to fulfil her position as someone with status, wealth and beauty. I especially can’t imagine being one of the mothers who had to do this to their girl-children while actually accepting that it would be “for their own good.” Thankfully, those barbaric practices have been outlawed, and we live in a society where there is greater freedom of choice. The most torture a typical American girl might feel these days is the brief pain after getting her ears pierced. Lisa Sees second book, Peony in Love, I couldn’t really get through. I’m like that sometimes. I’ll start a book, get so far and just loose interest. Shanghai girls kept me through to the end, and I’d recommend it as a very good read.

The second book I read was The Time Traveler’s Wife. This book was fabulous!  Such an amazing story, and I’m not afraid to admit I cried at the end. It  ranks very high on my list of favorites. The story is intriguing and excellently written, so layered and woven in such a unique way that it might be one of those rare books that I could read again. I’m curious about the movie, so I just placed it in our Netflix queue (although I cannot see Eric Bana as Henry) and placed a hold on a couple of other Audrey Niffenegger book. Fingers crossed that they will be just as riveting as this one!

Is it just me, or do other people have to work as hard as I do to find good books to read? Why isn’t there a psycological test that can analyze your answers and then present you with an ongoing list of books that are just your type? But I guess this would be impossible since tastes change, and what seems interesting today could take the backburner tomorrow. Generally, I have specific preferences: I don’t like horror, or mysteries, or anything too painful and sad. I couldn’t read the Lovely Bones, for example, no matter how many friends recommend it. I like novels, romance and fantasy and usually prefer a happy ending. I also tend to gravitate towards female authors, although I do have a couple of male favorites.

Next on my reading list, It Sucked and Then I Cried by Heather Armstrong. (I was reminded about this book through another blogger’s recent post, but I can’t remember whose. Was it you?)


My Life in France

A photograph from our 2002 trip to France

I’ve been reading Julia Child’s My Life in France. Its timing was perfect because I’ve really been longing for another trip to Paris. It has been 7 years since we were there last. Way too long.

I can’t say I’ve been a huge fan of Julia Child. She seemed to be on TV a lot when I was a kid, and I didn’t have the appreciation for cooking and food that I do now.  Plus there was something about her voice and mannerism. My mom, a very good cook and who has worked in restaurants most of her life, would turn on Julia’s cooking shows sometimes and I’d sit and watch with her.

Anyway, I’m enjoying the book. Some of it is rather dry, just day to day events, but there are wonderful descriptions of the people and places she experienced during her time in Paris and then Marseille. And the food! It is so clear how passionate she was about French cooking – the countless hours she would put in to making a recipe perfect, because, in this, she was a true perfectionist. Her enthusiasm is inspiring, and makes me think that a delicious souffle or buerre blanc might be in our future.

Naturally, next on my reading list will be Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously (unless I see the movie first), about how author Julie Powell spent a year cooking each one of the 524 recipes in Julia Child’s Mastering The Art of French Cooking and then blogging about it. I’m also now curious about “Mastering the art…” as is everyone else. Apparently the cookbook will make its debut at No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list. I find it a shame that Julia Child isn’t alive to see this, but that just seems to be the way of things.


Amy Butler's Little Stitches

I just happened to be perusing craft books on Amazon the other day and was excited to see that Amy Butler has a new book out called Little Stitches for Little Ones. Such perfect timing!

Here’s the description from her site:

In my new lavishly illustrated sewing projects book, you’ll find all new charming and contemporary projects for the nursery, baby wear, soft toys, and many more surprises! The projects are designed for babies 0-12 months and their mothers, featuring beautiful photos of the finished designs by our friend Colin McGuire. It was fun to produce these little treasures, and I think you’ll find many projects in here for all the wee ones in your world. 176 pages, 7 pattern sheets, wire binding (same format as In Stitches). Retail $24.95


Handmade Baby Boy Booties

My first attempt at baby boy booties

Introducing little Lorenzo. Isn’t he a cutie!?

I finally got around to making these felt little boy booties for Marcy & Alex’s adorable son Lorenzo. I’ve posted about handmade baby girl shoes before here and here (with tutorial links), but mary jane’s just don’t work for little boys. The template for the pair above are based on one from B is for Baby: 26 Projects from A to Z by Suzonne Stirling. A really nice book with lots of fun projects. Also, did you know that Joann’s now carries ecospun felt, made from recycled post-consumer plastic bottles? Nice.


Eat Pray Love

There have been times where I just happen to buy, borrow, or be given just the right book at the just the right time when I’d enjoy it most. This time, the book is called Eat Pray Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert.

I haven’t been doing much reading lately, mostly because I’ve been getting headaches before barely finishing a chapter. Pretty annoying for someone who loves to read as much as I do. Instead, using a credit generously given by my father-in-law, my husband downloaded the book for me from Audibles.com. Thanks to the ipod, now I can just sit (or lay) listening as the story unfolds, as the author’s voice transports me to Italy, and soon to India, and later to Indonesia.

I guess I should clarify my first paragraph a little, too. I have found this book to be very interesting so far, but not because I have any desire to divorce my husband, or because I want to put off having children (as the author writes). But because I am curious about her search, and her travels. In chapter nine, she notes “My truth was exactly as I told the medicine man in Bali – I wanted to experience both. I wanted worldly enjoyment and divine transcendence – the dual glories of a human life. I wanted what the Greeks called kalos kai agathos, the singular balance of the good and the beautiful.”

I found this idea to be so profound. Because in a way, that is what we all want to some extent (or maybe I’m just speaking for myself here) – to enjoy the pleasures of the world (a life full of good food, true love, travels, enriching experiences and happiness) and yet to also be enlightened, to have an understanding (religious or otherwise) but without giving up everything, to not have to be a beggar, or a monk, or to give up all our worldly possessions. I think we’d all like to achieve that sort of balance in our lives.


Knitted hat, complete!

The colors are actually moss green and navy, not purple like it looks in the photo

When I was in Colorado over the holidays I found a great book called Hip Knit Hats at the public library. Although it doesn’t really cover how to knit “in the round” (luckily my sister-in-law was willing to teach me), it includes 40 pretty cool hat patterns. The one shown above is called “Jesse.” It turned out a little too long for me, so it has become David’s. Strangely enough, he immediately stuck a piece of leftover yarn through the crown to dangle down in two places (not shown) and says he likes it like that. Interesting.

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Crazy for Craft Books

I have recently gone crazy for craft books from our local library. So many good ideas, and inspiring photos, and (thankfully!) step-by-step instructions! Sadly, my library doesn’t have many of the titles I would love to check out (Sew Easy Bags, Amy Butler’s In Stitches, Sublime Stitching, Make Your Own Contemporary Quilts, The Apron Book, Sock and Glove, etc), so I may spend some time filling out request forms, or possibly buying them myself.

I know, I know, please spare me the lecture on how other people can’t borrow these books if I have so many at home. I get it enough from my husband. Recently, right before our weekly visit, he even asked if I was ready to return the library. What can I say? Aren’t libraries for lending (thank goodness!)? And where else can I indulge both my love of books and love of crafts without spending a penny (except in fines…oops)!

Here are the one’s I’ve borrowed most recently (not mentioning the ones queued up on my inter-library request list!):

sew subversive
Sew Subversive
This one has been most informative, especially the intro chapters
You + Your Machine and Gearing Up for Your First Sewing Project.

complete idiot's guide to sewing
The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Sewing

stitch 'n bitch
Stitch ‘N Bitch – The Knitter’s Handbook
This book was recommended by Rachel, a very nice “crafty” person
I met at Border’s when I bought Lotta Jansdotter Simple Sewing.

sew easy
Sew Easy

99 ways t-shirt book
99 ways to cut, sew, trim, & tie your T-shirt

I wanna make my own clothes
I wanna make by own clothes

sew teen
Sew Teen
I am far from being a teen, but I loved the cute tops and easy
instructions in this book. I want to make the “baby doll tunic”
the girl on the left is wearing! Cute!

All images from amazon.com.


Inspiration: Lotta Jansdotter Simple Sewing

lotta jansdotter simple sewing

I’ve finally bought a copy of Lotta Jansdotter’s Simple Sewing. I have loved her designs for ages, and own two of her adorable tissue box covers (read that post here) and a set of sticky notes my husband gave me last christmas. Her designs and patterns, to me, are the epitome of fresh, organic and modern. If I had inexhaustible funds I’m sure I would surround myself with many more of her products.

Anyway, I really want to learn to sew. I’ve thought about it for ages, but frankly, I’m scared. I see it as being a very difficult and unforgiving medium, though so many people do it very well. I’ve had a hard time just hemming up my pants, despite a very instructive lesson from my mother-in-law. And it’s not like I’ve never had a successful sewing experience. It’s just that I’ve also had some very frustrating experiences, too.

I’m hoping this book will help inspire me to change all that. It includes patterns and instructions for some basic, yet cool items that I would love to make for myself and possibly even give as gifts.

Tip: If you use the link above to her store, the book will come signed by Lotta. I didn’t know this until after I had already purchased my book from Border’s (with an email newsletter discount). Plus, while we were there we met and chatted with a very nice couple in the cafe about sewing and crafts. Rachel and Owen, if you’re reading this, it was very nice to meet you. 🙂


1000 Places to See Before You Die

1000 places to see before you die

A few weeks ago, during a photo shoot, the stylist brought in several travel books to use as props, including the book 1000 Places to See Before You Die, A Traveler’s Life List by Patricia Schultz. I had seen it before at Costco, but only flipped through it briefly at the time.

Afterward, I requested it from the library, to delve into it a bit more fully. It lists so many interesting places I’ve never heard of, or never thought to visit. Curiously, it didn’t include Montenegro, one of the places that is particularly high on my “Hope to See Someday” list. Otherwise, it definitely left me with a yearning to see more of the world, beyond the few countries I’ve already seen – France, Italy, Vietnam and Canada. And even there, I noticed places I missed the first time around.

David and I played this game where he’d flip the pages of the book and I would stick my hand in and that would tell us where we should go next. Twice in a row I hit Finland (which I’ve never once considered), and strangely enough, one of the Finland entries I hit was for Hotel Kamp in Helsinki – the irony being that David’s last name is “Feldkamp.”

Needless to say, my goal now is to start saving up, and hopefully plan a trip for spring 2008. Itinerary to be decided…

The author also has a couple related books out, including 1,000 Places to See in the U.S.A. & Canada Before You Die and 1,000 Places to See Before You Die Traveler’s Journal.

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Extraordinary Creatures

ping-pong tree sponge

These images are from a website promoting The Deep, a book by Claire Nouvian. It includes a gallery of incredible photographs of deep sea creatures. It’s really another world down there, impossibly unique and beautiful. My favorites are the images shown above – the star shape of the Ping-Pong Tree Sponge, the ethereal look of the Blacksnout seasnail, and the too-cute-for-words Dumbo octopus. It is almost hard to believe these things are real.

This book definitely looks worth buying. It would also be great as “budget decor” if the individual images were taken out, matted and framed. And what a conversation piece! Be sure to click on “Gallery” after viewing the flash animation. Thanks, Anne, for the link.

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Poison Study / Magic Study

Normally I am a voracious reader, but thanks to Netflix, I’ve lately become too addicted to watching episodes of Charmed to bother with books. However, there have been two exceptions, both by Maria V. Snyder, which I enjoyed very much for their easy read and their tie-in to my magic-inundated mindset.

The first book is called Poison Study, but I actually read book two, Magic Study, first after finding it on the New Books shelf at the library. Despite reading in the wrong order I had no trouble getting my bearings and afterwards immediately placed a request for the first book. What I love about the heroine, Yelena, is her underlying strength, despite being in complex situations that often make her unsure and vulnerable. Here is the description for Poison Study:

CHOOSE: A QUICK DEATH OR A SLOW POISON. About to be executed for murder, Yelena is offered a reprieve. She’ll eat the best meals, have rooms in the palace, and risk assassination by anyone trying to kill the Commander of Ixia. And so Yelena chooses to become a food taster. But the chief of security, leaving nothing to chance, deliberately feeds her Butterfly’s Dust, and only by appearing for her daily antidote will she delay an agonizing death from the poison. As Yelena tries to escape her dilemma, disasters keep mounting. Rebels plot to seize Ixia and she develops magical powers she can’t control. Her life’s at stake again and choices must be made. But this time the outcomes aren’t so clear!

An excerpt for Poison Study is available here, and an excerpt for Magic Study is available here.

After reading both books I took a moment to email my pleasure to the author, and guess what? She emailed me back! I know, pretty rare, and no, it wasn’t a form letter because she actually referred to things I mentioned, particularly about reading the stories in the wrong order. She also thanked me for my “kind words” and mentioned that she has an online short story about Valek (Ixia’s cheif-of-security and eventually Yelena’s lover) called Assassin Study. I haven’t read it yet, but I plan to. Needless to say, I am looking forward to her next book Fire Study, due out this fall. Maria’s blog can be found at www.myspace.com/mariavsnyder.

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