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This and That: Links Worth Sharing

Kale Soup with carrots and beans

Friday is finally upon us! I have some amazing reads worth sharing this week. You may have already seen them from my twitter feed, but each of these ring with truths that have me shaking my head. And a couple are sure to make you laugh.

First, though, I wanted to share a recipe for Kale Soup. I tried it at my wonderful friend Greta’s house this past weekend and it was so good! Hearty and healthy with only basic prep and cooking time. I don’t have her exact recipe, but I was able to make it up from what I remembered. It is a lot like the one shown above from The Curvy Carrot, except with garbanzo beans and no cream. I also threw in some some turkey meatballs that I had from the freezer. This made a delicious lunch the next day (instagram photo here) and even the kids ate some!

 This post was my favorite read this week – about the four bases of a mom-to-mom relationship, amusingly called a ‘mom-lationship’.

Don’t miss reading The Sad Reality About Life as Adults, a Wake-up Call for Kids. The comparison chart had me laughing out loud!

And lastly, you have probably already seen this video of Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches, but just in case you missed it:

Have a wonderful weekend!


Birthday Gift Books for Preschoolers


I hope everyone had a lovely weekend! Chloe had back-to-back preschool birthday parties, one on Saturday and one on Sunday, so it was definitely a fun-filled weekend for us!

Since we are still getting to know both of the birthday kids, I thought a good gift for each child would be a book + art supplies (my usual go-to gift). For this, as usual, I looked to my own kids for inspiration.

Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site

For the birthday boy, who also has a little brother about Leo’s age, we chose Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site. Leo is WAY into trucks right now, and this is a book that both my kids enjoy. It is a New York Times bestseller, and the perfect just-before-bedtime read. It is about a crew of construction vehicles that finish up their jobs for the day and then go to sleep. The rhyming is thoughtfully done and the illustrations are in a crayon-drawn style. With this gift we attached a pack of crayola glitter crayons. Here’s the animated book trailer for Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site (did you even know there was such a thing?!):


Bridget’s Beret

To the birthday girl, we gave a copy of Bridget’s Beret. Chloe and I both like to read this one (versus some of the books that Chloe likes that I don’t really care for – at least not the twentieth, or one-hundredth time!). This is definitely a book that will grow with her, and continue to be interesting.

Bridget’s Beret is about a young artist named Bridget who likes to wear a black beret. When her beret gets caught in a breeze and sails away, she feels like her ability to draw is lost along with it. Only when her little sister begs her to paint a sign for their lemonade stand does Bridget realize there is more to her talent after all. Such fresh and colorful girly illustrations! With this book to the birthday girl we also added a watercolor set. You can download a free activity guide for Bridget’s Beret here.

Here’s the funny thing: I didn’t realize until I bought both gift books that they were illustrated by the same author/illustrator, Tom Lichtenheld! I guess I don’t usually pay much attention to childrens’ book authors. Now that I know we like his style, we’re testing out several others from the library. Another cute book we’re currently reading is called Cloudette. See Cloudette’s sweet animated book trailer here.

Happy reading!

Just for the record, this is not a paid review. I’ve never actually done one of those, although I would love to! These are truly just some books that my kids and I really, really like!

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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.


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.


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.


Sweet Chemise

I just completed the sweet chemise project from the book Simple Sewing with a French Twist. It was my first apparel project. The instructions were fairly clear, and had good diagrams, but I really missed not having my mother-in-law around. She was a great help when I got stuck on my last project. The neckline gave me the most trouble, but I was able to muddle through.

Overall, it turned out fine, though not as easy as I expected. I think it would not be easy for a person without computer skills to properly enlarge and print the pattern on a photocopier, as suggested. I also found the order of instructions a little strange, and the length a lot longer than it looked in the book’s picture, although my measurements did match up. I guess I thought it would be more of a shirt than a dress. In the future I’ll try making this again, but with softer fabric and maybe a tad wider around the bust area. I would guess the end product to be about a size 2-4, which is surprising, and could be really disappointing for someone with a decent-sized chest. It would have been a little looser if I hadn’t followed the directions for french seams (check out Stardust Shoe’s blog for a good example), but it was a technique I wanted to try.

I did a search to see how other people’s sweet chemise projects turned out but only found Robin at That Silly Girl. Hers actually turned out short by accident. She also shares a link to Belle Epoque’s Tie-top Tank tutorial that looks really cute. I think I might try that next time.


Bend-the-Rules Sewing, signed

I have been reading so many blog posts (1,2,3,4,5,etc) about fellow Portlander Amy Karol’s book Bend-the-Rules Sewing, that I was really curious to attend her book-signing event at Bolt tonight. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but let me just say that I am glad I went and that Amy is really nice. I kind of wish I had one of the projects out of her book to share, like many of the other attendees, but I just picked up a copy tonight.

I introduced myself and mentioned how I was new to sewing and that her book was only the second I’ve purchased (this being the first). She seemed genuinely happy for me and took a few minutes to point out a couple things, like how the Charming Handbag project (love this!) is really fun, but was missing some vital dimensions, which could really frustrate someone just starting out. She talked about providing paper patterns (like Lotta’s book, I imagine) next time, and how it’s too bad that people currently have to enlarge the templates on a copier. Luckily, that won’t be a problem for me because we have a scanner and I’ll be able to tile the pages when I print for patterns larger than letter size.

I can’t decide which project I’ll try first, but my favorites are the Accessorized Canine Dog Collar, the Amazing Tea Towel Apron, the No Cash Wallet, and the Artsy Clutch. Anyway, it was really sweet of Amy to spend a little time getting to know each person, instead of just signing books. Even better, she gave each signing a little something extra (which I completely appreciate) by adding a small sticker that says To a very special Bend-the-Rules sewing person, (heart), you rock.

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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.

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