Thursday, December 15, 2016

Maternity Leave

Belly Shots, Belly Pregnancy Progression

You guys, I had lots of plans for all the posts I wanted to get up this month. We were going to talk Christmas decorations, Christmas books, end-of-year reviews and best-ofs. I may still get around to some of these posts at some point, but it became apparent this week that my lovely little baby is likely going to come earlier than later.

I'll try to spare you the intimate details (although a full birth story will be coming once she's here, worry you not!), but basically I've been in labor since Saturday. I'm dilating at a slow and incremental pace, living in a state of constant low-level contractions. Based on my last pregnancy, I expect this to drag on for a few weeks yet, but I'm definitely miserable. And trying desperately to keep some semblance of normalcy afloat with my other children as we still attempt to participate in holiday activities and celebrate the season.

But something's got to give, and for the forseeable future, it will have to be blogging. Hopefully next time I write, it will be with pictures of my precious, squishy baby girl. And I won't be pregnant anymore!

Until then, may you all have a very Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, etc. etc.!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

How to Make a Fresh Bough Wreath (Tutorial)

Fresh Bough Wreath, Tutorial, Christmas Wreath, DIY Wreath

You guys, I have no right whatsoever to be posting a crafty tutorial. I'm laughing at the absurdity of this as I type. I'm also positive that you can find out how to make this exact wreath (or something even prettier) from actual legit sources somewhere on the internet. So I know, completely ridiculous and redundant of me to post this.

BUT! But, this classic little wreath is SO EASY and SO CHEAP to make (once you've invested in your initial materials, every year after that it's pretty much free) that I can't help sharing. I just feel like someone who reads this blog is going to benefit from this knowledge (maybe, I don't know).

So, if you've ever seen fresh bough wreaths in stores, you know they can be pretty pricey. And for something that only lasts you one month of the year at most, I'd always considered them a bad investment as far as Christmas decor is concerned. But they smell so nice! And look so much prettier than the fake ones (not knocking the fake ones, I've totally owned fake ones in my time).

Then, three years ago, I went to a church activity where they taught us how to make these fresh wreaths, and I was sort of blown away at how easy it was. You know, the prices they charge for the ones in the store would make you think this is an incredibly complex process, but no. It takes almost no skill whatsoever (trust me, I have none to speak of), it's basically impossible to screw up, and did I mention it's cheap?

It is, in fact, so easy that I've managed to make one (on my own!) every year since then, despite having a colicky newborn, being in school half-way through December, or (in this year's case), being a nearly 8-month-pregnant beached whale. In fact, I knocked this year's model out, from start to finish (meaning, from trying to find where I stashed all the supplies last year to hanging it on my door) in under an hour.

Okay, so are you ready to do this? Let's get started!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

A Brief Taxonomy of Gifts

Gift Taxonomy, practical gifts, luxury gifts, experience gifts

I've been thinking a lot about gifts recently ('tis the season). Gift giving is an area of life where I feel some anxiety and inadequacy (we've already established this is not exactly my love language), but because there are so many people around me whose primary love language is gifts, and because I know so many awesome gift-givers, this is an area that I've determined to be more thoughtful about and improve in.

One thing I've been thinking about this year is gift categories, specifically the three categories of practical gifts, luxury gifts, and experience gifts (there are other categories, like "clutter gifts," but nobody likes those, so why bring them up here?). I think different people prefer different categories of gifts (at least, in my limited experience, they do), so recognizing these categories has helped me identify who might prefer what kind of gift. Let's talk about them a bit more.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Books I Read in November

Well, November was not my greatest reading month ever. I borrowed a bunch of my usual dedicated reading time for other projects (trying to get things done before baby comes), but mostly I'm just tired and distracted. I'm comforted by the fact that I've already hit my (expanded) reading goal for the year, so everything from November and December is just gravy on top. That's exciting for me.

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

This one was actually a hangover from my October seasonal reading that I didn't quite finish until a few days into November. In the past few months I've tried three Gaiman novels: American Gods (disturbing did-not-finish), The Graveyard Book (charming YA read), and this one. This book is definitely for adults, and it came close to crossing some squeamish lines for me, but wasn't nearly as violent or disturbing as I found American Gods. I quite enjoyed the story and most of the characters. So for now, I've really liked 2 out 3 Gaiman novels, despite getting off to a rough start with him. If you know you like Gaiman, this one is a general recommend. It's got some really good, creepy world building.

Leave Me by Gayle Forman

I've had conflicting, flip-flopping emotions about this one. See longer review here. Generally, I think it's worthy of a recommend, especially if you've enjoyed any of Forman's other novels.

The Wrath & the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

So, I was generally intrigued by the premise of this one (a YA retelling of the Scheherazade tale), but in the end it felt like a fairly typical YA fantasy read, even down to the abhorrent love triangle. It wasn't bad, and if you like YA romance fantasy stuff, this one may be perfect for you. It just wasn't what I was hoping for and I don't feel any need to continue on with this series.

On to books in the infamous category of Did Not Finish!

Before We Visit the Goddess by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

This one has gotten a lot of hype this year in certain quarters, and it started off with such promise. I loved the beautiful writing, the characters were interesting and I was invested in the story. But as things progressed, I really began to lose interest. Lives kept falling apart in more and more depressing ways, bad choices were being made left and right, and then the story started shifting to tangential characters that I didn't care all that much about. I got through about 75% of this, but when it was due back at the library, I returned it with no desire to check it out again. I just don't care enough.

And now on to family Read Alouds:

Flat Stanley's Worldwide Adventures 1: The Mount Rushmore Calamity by Sara Pennypacker and Jeff Brown

You guys, we've been struggling a bit in the read-aloud department with a lot of false starts. Part of the problem is that it's taking a while for some of my holds to come in, and the offered selection at my local branch isn't great. I would've preferred to start with the first book in the original Flat Stanley series, but this is what my branch had to offer off the shelf. Still, it was our first non-animal centered read aloud success. My son really liked the characters and got super involved with the story-line. It was at a great level for him, and I will definitely be putting more Flat Stanley's on our holds list.

Have you read any of these? Thoughts and opinions welcome!