Thursday, August 27, 2015

Stay-cation

After travelling so much in July, we needed a vacation from our vacations. After returning home from my sister's wedding at the beginning of the month we had a few weeks off to relax at home before heading back to work. 


It was so nice to be able to spend time in our own space doing whatever we wanted with no obligations or commitments. 



I did a lot of reading and spent a lot of time outside enjoying our yard and garden. 


I watched all of House of Cards (I love Kirsten Bell!), and Stephen and I watched the first season of Agent Carter and the latest season of Louie together. I loved both of those. Louie is one of my favorite shows and I thought Agent Carter was awesome. She is so badass and cool. 


I wanted to marathon Harry Potter one night by myself but only made it through the fourth and fifth movies. We watched the last 3 on different nights. 



I did a lot of writing, personal, and creative, and for the blog. 



We went to the city lots to spend time with family and friends, and hosted people at our house on multiple occasions. It's always fun having people out for a visit and being able to cook a meal for them and play games or whatever. More people come to our house in summer because the drive isn't as bad and people tend to have more free time (and we ourselves are off work and free most of the time.) 


One night we laid out on our deck to star-gaze and watched the Perseids meteor shower together. One nice thing about where we live is there is no light pollution. 


We listened to a lot of records on the new record player we got in the spring.
 

and we took walks together, enjoying our little town at the end of summer. (although we didn't enjoy the mosquitoes that went crazy in the evenings.)


It was so nice to be able to go home and recharge after a busy month and before we had to return to work for another busy school year. It was good to be able to strike a balance between having adventures and relaxing. It was a good summer.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Bout of Books 14 Wrap Up

I'm late on this. A family emergency unexpectedly took me out of town on Thursday and I only got home tonight so I had to give up on the read-a-thon.
I had a lot of fun participating for the first few days. I finished one book and got 3/4 into another, and I won one of the challenges! I thought the challenges this time were pretty creative, and I especially loved the photo ones. Overall it was a great experience.


I finished South of the Border, West of the Sun by Haruki Murakami and loved it.


I still have about 70 pages left in Great House that I will finish this week...



...and I didn't even start my third book. When I made the goal I thought it was too ambitious but I think I could have done it if I could have participated every day instead of having to quit with five days left. Oh well, there's always next time. 

The next Bout of Books read-a-thon is January 4-10, 2016! Visit boutofbooks.blogspot.ca for more info if you are interested in participating!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Bout of Books: Four Seasons in Book Covers

Update: I am only about 100 pages into Great House with about 180 left. I went to the city yesterday to visit a friend, then I had an appointment, so I only ended up reading about 50 pages in the evening. I am hoping to read more today and then finish the book tomorrow.

Today's challenge is to convey the four seasons in book covers, through title, cover, color, whatever.

This is what I came up with:

I decided to go by cover art but realized after that the seasons I chose the books for are also the seasons the stories are set in, so that's appropriate. 



Spring: Bambi by Felix Salten


Summer: The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

Autumn: Anne of Windy Poplars by L.M. Montgomery


Winter: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Bout of Books: Scavenger Hunt

Update: I finished South of the Border, West of the Sun yesterday so today I will start Great House. It's already 1pm and I haven't read yet today but there's still lots of time left in the day.

also, I won the challenge yesterday! woo hoo! So I got to pick a free book under $15 from the great site The Book Depository. The book I chose was the graphic novel Nimona by Noelle Stevenson. I can't wait to get it and read it!

Today's challenge is a bookish scavenger hunt. It's being hosted on instagram but since my personal instagram is private I wanted to post my photos here on my blog, so here they are:


1. A book that begins with 'B' (for Bout of Books)
Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo (a B author!)


2. A book you're planning to read/currently reading for Bout of Books
Great House by Nicole Krauss


3. Blue book(s)
Teaching for Joy and Justice by Linda Christensen, Basic Gardening by Sybille Engels, and The Fault in Our Stars by John Green


4. Books from your favorite genre
(Mine is contemporary fiction.) 
The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi, and The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer



5. A book on your TBR (to be read) shelf, or your full TBR shelves
This little stack comprises some of my TBR books. (feat flower crown on top)

Monday, August 17, 2015

Bout of Books: Fictional World Travel

Today's Bout of Books challenge is "Fictional World Travel."
The challenge is to list 3-6 books that are set in countries other than the one you live in. I live in Canada, so that's out.



The books I chose are:
House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende (Chile)
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Nigeria and United States of America)
Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami (Japan)

In each of these novels the setting is very important and the story could not have taken place in any other country.  Each of these authors is from the country the novel is set in. (Allende is Chilean, Ngozi Adichie is Nigerian, and Murakami is Japanese). and these are three of my favorite books!


If you are interested in participating in Bout of Books it's not too late to sign up!

Friday, August 14, 2015

I'm Participating in Bout of Books 14!

I had a lot of fun participating in the Bout of Books read-a-thon in May. It was a fun excuse to read more, and I really enjoyed participating in some of the challenges and sharing them here on my blog, so I am going to participate in the 14th Bout of Books read-a-thon next week.
From the Bout of Books website:

"The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, August 17th and runs through Sunday, August 23rd in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 14 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog."

Bout of Books

There are no rules to the read-a-thon, it's just meant to encourage participants to make reading a priority and to maybe try to read more than you normally would in a week.
In May I made it my own personal goal to complete an audio book, an e-book, and a physical book.
Since I'm off work right now (and therefore not commuting) I won't be listening to an audio book, so this time my personal goal is a little bit different.


I just recently started reading South of the Border, West of the Sun by Haruki Murakami on my kobo. I don't think I will finish it before Monday so first up I'm going to be finishing that.



I bought Great House by Nicole Krauss while I was in New York last month so I want to read that. I loved her other novel The History of Love


And if I'm feeling really ambitious or if I finish the other two quickly then I am going to start And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini. I have had this book since it came out. I have it in hardcover. and I have never read it. But I have read Hosseini's other books (The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns) and enjoyed them so I think I will like this one.

Also I am making another goal to at least flip through the stack of professional resources I brought home from work at the beginning of the summer. I might not read every single one of them but I will at least look through them.

So that's my plan for next week!

Monday, August 10, 2015

DIY Succulent Terrarium Tutorial - Four Easy Steps

I love the look of those trendy succulent terrariums but all the ones I've seen that I like are $40 or more, so I set out to make my own and spent less than $20. Here's how I made mine in case you want to make your own. 


Here's what you'll need:


1. a glass container. I used this fish bowl I already had from when I had a pet fish a few years ago (RIP Sam Beam the fish) so I spent nothing on this, but you can get glass containers of various shapes and sizes at any dollar store. 

2. Soil. They make soil specifically for succulents. It is drier so it doesn't retain water as much as regular soil, but to keep this project as cheap as possible I just used standard potting soil that I already had. I will just water my plants less frequently so the soil can dry out between waterings.


3. small rocks. I had these from before (they were at the bottom of my fish bowl) but I think you could probably get these quite cheap at a dollar store or WalMart, or if that fails any pet store. 


4. succulents. I got the three potted ones at Home Depot for around $5 each, and the little spindly ones laying on the table I already had. I got all of them for $1 earlier in the summer at a garden sale. I just pulled them out of the pot I had them in to put them into the terrarium.
You can get succulents relatively cheap at pretty much any garden or plant store. I recommend choosing a few different ones that you think are cool looking and pick ones that look healthy. 



5. larger stones, shells, or crystals - whatever you want to decorate your terrarium with.
These really make a difference. I had the three black stones from my old fish tank, Stephen bought that ammonite in Banff last spring, and the pink stone is rose quartz and was a favor at my sister's wedding earlier this month.

Here's how you make it: 


1. Put the tiny rocks on the bottom of your container. This will help with water drainage so the soil will not stay soaking wet and rot the roots of the plants.


2. Put soil on top of the rocks. 


3. Arrange your succulents how you want them. 
You don't have to plant these things too deep, they will take root easily.




4. Arrange your larger stones/shells crystals how you want them.
See what I mean about these decorative items making a big difference?


And that's it! It's done!
Succulents do not need a lot of light or a lot of water, they are pretty easy to care for. If you put them in full sun for the entire day they will get burned so place in a spot with medium-low light and spritz with water a few days after soil dries out.

I love the way my terrarium turned out. I think it looks just as good as some of the ones I've seen people charging upwards of $40 for, and I like mine better because of the personal touches the ammonite and rose quartz give it.

I put the extra plants into this cute little pot I had! 



Friday, August 7, 2015

On Going Home and Growing Up

Only three days after we got home from New York last month we took off again, this time for a road trip to Northern Alberta where my mom is from. We used to visit this place at least twice a year every year when I was a kid, driving the ten hours from home, but my sister and I hadn't been there since 2011 when our grandma died. Our cousin died in 2013. He drowned in the river and none of us were able to attend the funeral. This was also the first time we'd visited since he died.
It was a really strange feeling to be going back knowing how different the place would feel without those certain people who'd always been there in the past.
Stephen and I stopped in Medicine Hat on the way up, and picked up my sister Lisa and the three of us drove up North together. Lisa and I have both changed so much in the past four years and our lives have changed so much. I felt so far away from the person I was in 2010 (when I started this blog, actually), the last time I'd visited this place and I wasn't sure what it would be like to reconnect with the place and the people who knew me then, but I was happy to be going with two people who've always known me and loved all the versions of myself I have been.


On our first night there my mom took the three of us on a driving tour of the town. We weren't planning on spending much time in my mom's actual hometown, which was different from past visits, when we'd spent almost all our time in town.
We saw my grandparents' old house, and the church where my parents were married 40 years ago, and the old playground and all the stores we used to visit as kids. We visited the cemetery where my grandparents are buried.
Then we drove across the river to a hill overlooking the town. It was so peaceful looking at the town and the river as the sun set. My mom is from a totally different type of country than we were raised in. It's all forest and hills and river, unlike the flat fields and open skies of the prairies where we grew up. Being together that first night in that place was like a breath of fresh air. It was a relief to be back there. My sister kept saying, "I really needed this."


Lisa and Stephen and I camped at the lake all weekend. The lake is just "the lake" to us even though it has a name. It's only a few minutes away from my uncle's farm, the farm my mom grew up on. It was great for the three of us to have our own little oasis during our stay there. We could connect with nature and each other and grieve our cousin and grandma. Our parents came to our site that first night and we all had a campfire together. 


The reason we were there was for a family reunion which was the day after we arrived. It was a fun day. I got to see almost all of my cousins, and all of my aunties and uncles. The day went by slowly and the weather was beautiful. We all enjoyed each others' company and the beautiful day. My favorite part was going for walks that evening with my mom, auntie, cousin, and sister to take photos. My family has a lot of photographers in it.
It was cool to be back in a place I'd been to so many times in my life, a place that holds a lot of history for me.




The day after the reunion most of my family came to the lake where we were camping and we spent the day swimming, boating, tubing, and relaxing on the beach. My uncle took Stephen, Lisa, my mom, and I on a boat tour of the lake (Stephen had never been there before) and we saw loons defending their nest, and beaver lodges, and beavers, and fish under the clear water, and a sunken boat. It seemed like a magical underwater world we were witnessing. 


That night the few of us who were still around went back to the farm for supper and a fire. 






My mom and I enjoyed taking photos of my auntie's beautiful garden. 








The beauty and peacefulness and the eclectic mix of flowers growing seemingly wild reminded me of my grandma's old garden. 



My auntie has four hummingbirds who regularly drink from this feeder which is directly in front of the bay window to the living room so she can watch them from inside the house! 


We picked and ate nearby saskatoon berries. 


My mom and I went for a walk and she showed me a spot a few minutes away she and her sister had discovered the summer before where wild delphiniums were growing in the ditch 10-12 feet high.






It was great to reconnect to a place that's always felt a bit like another "home," and to see people again I haven't seen in years. The day we left was my 26th birthday so I was feeling a bit more reflective than usual. I thought about how even though so much has changed in the past four years it's mostly my life that has changed, not really me as a person. Seeing my cousins all grown up, and learning about how much has changed in their lives, I was struck with the thought that they still seemed essentially 'themselves' and the same must be true for me, too. What I mean is that at the core I'm still the same as I've always been in important ways, because I was with people who've known me for my entire life, not in a see you every day way but in a know who you really are by knowing where you came from way, and they didn't seem surprised by things I said or did or how I've turned out. So either I haven't changed all that much after all, or the people who love me are able to accept that I have and love me anyways. Either way I'm good. 
I think if you can grow up, pass through the phases of life, enter adulthood and still remain yourself without getting lost along the way, you're lucky.
I really liked being 25. It felt perfect to me. But being 26 really isn't different at all, and I think it'll be pretty good too. 

It's good to go home. It's good to return to places you've been that you didn't think you would return to. It's good to spend time with people who've known you literally forever and remember who you all used to be when you were here before. It's good to grow up and realize that even when it seems like everything changes, some places, some people, can remind you that the important things are still the same.