Thursday, December 31, 2015

best books of 2015

Isn't it funny how intentions go by the wayside every time, and yet we still manage to be surprised when they do? I started this year full of optimism and goals. One of those goals was to read 52 books - a feat I managed in 2013 but not 2014. And if I didn't make it to 52 books, surely I would surpass 2014's book count of 32. And yet, here I am having read 31 books this year. In all fairness, this has been a very tough year for me full of excessive amounts of mostly work-related stress. But even amid all of that, I have some very fond book-related memories. Mainly reading books aloud in the car with Joe on our summer roadtrip. We read The Circle by Dave Eggers, The Shade of the Moon by Susan Beth Pfeffer, and most of Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris. Below is a list of some of my favorites from 2015.

Recipes & Cooking
  • An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace by Tamar Alder
  • Super Natural Every Day: Well-Loved Recipes from My Natural Foods Kitchen by Heidi Swanson
  • Wintersweet: Seasonal Desserts to Warm the Home by Tammy Donroe Inman - This book was beautiful to look at and perfectly organized by main ingredient (apples, pears, etc).
  • The Winter Pony by Iain Lawrence - This book was so sad! Told from a pony's point of view, this book chronicles the Scott expedition to the South Pole.
  • Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
  • The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert
  • The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
  • The Circle by Dave Eggers
  • The Martian by Andy Weir

YA Fiction
  • Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
  • Grounded: The Adventures of Rapunzel by Megan Morrison

  • The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
  • Nature Anatomy by Julia Rothman - I intended to buy this beautiful book for my niece and nephew this Christmas, but ended up going with a couple other books as it wasn't available at my local book store. Next year, though...
  • Never Cry Wolf by Farley Mowat - A funny/sad story about an ecologist turned environmentalist who lives for a time among the wolves of northern Canada.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

keep on keeping on

What's New?
We took new kitty back to the no-kill shelter that we adopted him from. It was a very hard thing to do, but it was the right thing to do. While sweet and loving towards us, he was totally uninterested in our other cat Athena. She tried to play with him, snuggle with him, and groom him... but he wasn't interested. The whole reason we adopted him was to provide a kitty friend for Athena. On top of that he also had food issues. Not needs special food issues. We can do that. But I've starved before so now I think food will always be scarce no matter how often or how much my people feed me issues. It was too much.

In garden news, I finally cleaned up my raised beds for winter, planted two types of garlic, and scattered some nitrogen-fixing seeds on top. I'm hoping the cover crop seeds grow, but I realized I started them very late in the growing season. I know there are rules and guidelines for gardening that, if followed, would make my gardening experience more successful. But the realities of life often get in the way of following those rules and guidelines.

In kitchen news, I've started cleaning out and reorganizing my pantry cabinet. I had tried to use some plastic bulk food containers for rice and grains but they just didn't work. They didn't stack well, and they always just seemed awkward. So I've decided to donate them and use what I have: glass canning jars. They are plentiful, inexpensive (I buy most of mine at Goodwill), easy to clean and I just like the way they look. I added simple labels and grouped foods by type. Now all my dried fruit are on the same shelf, all the grains are on the same shelf, etc. I still have more to clean out and organize. Seeing progress so far helps to motivate me to keep it clean.

Currently Reading
  • The Martian by Andy Weir

On the Needles
I've started seaming my Wood Hollow Vest. It's a slow process for me, since I don't have a ton of seaming experience and I want to get it right.

I've worked a bit on my Bonny top while on the bus. It's a great bus knit - simple and easy to pick up and put down.

I started knitting Gramps for my nephew Xander. It's going to be tight, since I'm a little short on yarn, but with some creativity I think I can make it work. I've already divided for the sleeves, so now it looks like a sweater instead of a blob.

Looking Forward To
  1. getting together with friends for food & games

Sunday, October 18, 2015

a calm and stormy weekend

The calm...
Walked around Alki Saturday with Kristi and took these pictures. It had been weeks since we'd last seen each other, and we were terribly overdue for our weekend walks. After spending time with Kristi I Skyped with my parents (also terribly overdue). I find it's very refreshing and comforting getting advice from my parents. They are so far removed geographically that they don't get pulled into any drama. At the same time, they allow me to hear my inner voice as they advocate for what's best for me, all without any pressure to take their advice. I have amazing parents.

The stormy...
I ran a bunch of errands early Sunday. Arriving home with arms full of groceries, new kitty slipped out the front door and took off! Athena and Boomer only made it outside a couple times, and they promptly turned right back around and came back inside. Not so with new kitty, who is still without a name (although we're getting closer).

I spent an hour chasing him around the houses on my street, trying to scoop him up. At one point he crawled up inside the hood of a neighbor's car. They were on their way out, new baby in tow, and graciously popped their hood so I could retrieve my cat. But he escaped from under the car and took off again! Then he ended up inside the hood of another neighbor's car!

My upstairs neighbor (who has her own cats and had been helping me chase him this whole time) helped me barricade around the car so he couldn't slip out again. Once the barricade was in place, I knocked on yet another neighbor's door and asked him to pop the hood of his car. Sure enough, new kitty was crouched inside and my neighbor reached in and grabbed him!

I thought I'd never catch him, and he'd either disappear entirely or I would be forced to watch him get run over on the nearby busy street. I now fully understand the silly name he came with: Zoom.

Sunday, October 11, 2015


Sunrise on my way to work (safely stopped at a stop-sign).

My Wood Hollow Vest washed and blocked.

More sunrise, although a different day. The sky has been amazing this week.

What's New?
We adopted a cat this weekend! He's long and lanky and sweet. Athena does not know what to think about him yet. We've installed 3 baby gates, one on top of the other, in order to create a see-through barrier. That way they (and by "they" I really mean Athena) can stare at each other without fear of touching. I think he is completely ready to bond with her, but she is definitely not too sure about the whole situation.

Currently Reading
So many library books checked out to me right now, but so little time to read!
  • Never Cry Wolf by Farley Mowat - I am sharing bits and pieces of this story with my Advisory class. Our school mascot is the wolf, and they have enjoyed hearing about the wolves.
  • Nature Anatomy by Julia Rothman - This book is beautiful! I've put it on a possible present list for my niece and nephews.
  • Corvus: a Life with Birds by Esther Woolfson - This is currently my before bed book. This author often quotes and references the next book on my list, to no one's surprise.
  • Mind of the Raven by Bernd Heinrich - I've put this down for now in favor of Corvus.
  • Confession of a Buddhist Atheist by Stephen Batchelor - I haven't started this one yet, but I intended it to be a bus read.

On (& off) the Needles
You can see the current state of my Wood Hollow Vest in the picture above. It's been washed and blocked, ready for seaming. After seaming, it'll get a neck band and arm bands. Almost there...

My bus knit is the Bonny top from Tin Can Knits. It's 11 inches of stockinette stitch before the top pattern gets interesting. I'm about 3 inches in right now.

I've also started Zuzu's Petals, which is a cowl, using a beautiful fall-inspired Malabrigo.

And last but not least... I started a sweater pattern for my youngest nephew Xander awhile back, but I found I wasn't loving the way it was turning out. After visiting the Tin Can Knits booth at Knit City this past weekend, I decided to frog the sweater and knit the Gramps pattern instead.

Looking Forward To
  1. giving new kitty a name

Saturday, September 26, 2015

hello Autumn

I started this post three weeks ago. And then we went on strike. This has been one of the strangest Septembers I've ever experienced. Here it is, the last full week of September, and it's barely the first full week of school. My brain has had a hard time with that dissonance. So mostly to help myself, here's a photo update.

My CSA box continues to arrive weekly, filled to the brim with more vegetables than I know what to do with. I enjoy the challenge, and enjoy learning about new veggies. Last week was "what do I do with a huge head of cabbage?"

Our new school under construction. September marks the beginning of our last year in our temporary building. This time next year we'll be teaching in a brand new facility!

This huge shawl is finally washed and blocked, just in time for the change in the weather.

Unfortunately, instead of starting school on time we found ourselves picketing. My district, by far the largest in the state, went on strike for the first time in 30 years. Our school community is incredibly supportive, which makes all the difference as we pace back-and-forth, often clocking over 10 miles worth of steps each day.

This year I've committed myself to riding the bus to work more often, so that when I find myself sitting in traffic I can read, or knit, or daydream instead of grit my teeth. So far I've met my goal of taking the bus three times a week.

Kristi and I made it out to our favorite sunset spot a couple weeks ago just in time to see this gorgeous view. I can't imagine living away from the coast (this is technically the Sound).

In the midst of our strike, some of our parents and students installed this banner in the middle of the night. It lifted all of our spirits to be reminded that we have such a supportive community. So supportive, that when they realized other school communities in poorer neighborhoods were not able to give as much, they decided to partner up with one of those schools and help out.

 I volunteered as a picket captain during the strike, and my amazing coworkers gave me these beautiful flowers as a thank-you gift.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015


I planned on splitting one 20# box with a friend. Circumstances & misunderstandings left me with one and a half 20# boxes.

Starting early in the morning, I dutifully blanched 20#s in one day. It took hours just for that step.

Blanching is supposed to make the skins easier to remove. Ha! I'd say 25% of them were easy to remove. Maybe I need to work on my blanching skills. In any event, blanching 20#s of peaches in my tiny kitchen was quite the feat!

First up was cardamom peach pie filling. Then I went to my two favorite peach jams: peach cardamom jam, and peach jam with brown sugar and rum.

But I still had so many more blanched peaches leftover! So I dug into my fridge and found about 2 cups of raspberries that had been macerating in sugar for awhile. I used those to make a peach jam with raspberries. So much jam was made that day! Everyone is getting jam for presents. Maybe I'll take some jars to school and put them on the staff table with a "free to a good home" sign. I still have about 5#s left (I sent a few peaches home with anyone who would take them).

Let this be a reminder to me for next summer: small batch canning. Small batch. No one needs 30#s of fruit all at once.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

road trip

This summer Joe and I headed out for a two-week adventure: Museum of the Rockies, Yellowstone National Park, the DIG Field School near Hell Creek State Park, and finally Glacier National Park. We camped along the way, read books to each other as we drove, ate a ton of ice cream, saw wildlife up close, learned about the local geology, and dug up dinosaurs. It was also the perfect way to celebrate seven years of marriage and twelve years as a couple. I can't wait for next summer.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

goodbye Boomer kitty

Boomer (L), Athena (R)

Boomer (L), Athena (R)

Athena (L), Boomer (R)

Boomer (L), Athena (R)

Boomer (L), Athena (R)


Boomer - the night before her biopsy appointment

Friday was the worst day ever. It was preceded by a couple of pretty hard weeks full of various vet appointments, diagnostic tests, and medications. Cancer took one of our amazing kitty-sisters, Boomer, and much too soon. And now, for the first time in her whole life, Athena is alone. We adopted these sisters four years ago when they were barely a year old, thinking that we'd get to spend ten or more years with them. I wish I hadn't taken their presence for granted. I wish I had taken more pictures of their cute antics. I wish...

And now today we head out for our epic road-trip, leaving Athena's care to two of our wonderful friends. I know she'll be okay but my heart worries. I can't help it.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

project 52: week 45

What is Project 52? It's a little like Project 365, but instead of the goal of posting a photo each day, I'll post a photo or two each week along with a short update. Really I just need a little push to post something every week. Since I like to keep this space positive, posting every week forces me to look back and find something shiny to talk about (ten points if you get that reference). Some weeks that's a piece of cake. Other weeks it's more of a challenge, and those weeks give this task true meaning.

What's New?
This week was filled with kitty-related stress, and yarn. We took that adorable cat to get a lump biopsied only to discover that it's cancerous. So now we are faced with figuring out next steps. Our kitties are only 5 years old so we never imagined dealing with cancer so soon. The bright side is that right now the tumor is not affecting her overall health at all. She's happy and (relatively) healthy.

The yarn part of my week involved a long-overdue trip to Tolt Yarn and Wool in Carnation, WA and Quintessential Knits in Duvall, WA. I've heard such good things about Tolt, specifically, but hadn't made it out there to check it out. I came away with yarn for two projects: Tin Can Knits' Bonny top in Quince & Co Piper yarn, and Zuzu's Petals in Malabrigo Sock.

Currently Reading
  • The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell - This book is long! I'm reading it on my Kindle so I didn't realize just how long it is. Plus, it's weird, which makes reading a little slower. There are many times I have to slow done so that I can process what the heck I just read. Body-jumping, immortality, and strange interconnections... all of that amidst a story that jumps through time and narrators sometimes jarringly. But overall I enjoy the read.

On the Needles
Still plugging away at my Earth & Sky shawl. I've put the Wood Hollow Vest aside for a bit, but I imagine I'll pick it up again before our road trip so that I can at least finish the front.

Looking Forward To
  1. Our road trip!
  2. Another CSA box
  3. Getting my hands dirty with gardening

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

a few things

:: I had the pleasure of reading this book by one of my former coworkers Megan Morrison! A fun adventure story that is a bit of a twist on classic fairy-tales. I bought two copies at her book signing: one for me and one for my school, since I work at a K-8. I think this book would appeal to 5th grade and up.

:: So far I've really enjoyed my weekly CSA box. The CSA season runs through October, so I have many more to come. This week, while looking at the contents, I think I see a plan: bruschetta! There are other things in the box that I'll need to plan for: carrots, potatoes, kale, and something completely new to me... fennel.

:: This year I've only made two small batches of jam. The first one was strawberry balsamic, and the second one was blackberry apricot. My blackberry apricot recipe is adjusted from here to be a small batch. I have a bunch of raspberries in the fridge that need to be processed today, but I haven't decided just what to do with them yet.

Blackberry Apricot Small Batch Jam with Cinnamon
  • 4 cups fruit pureed (roughly 2 cups blackberries, 2 cups apricots)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 10 minutes in the boiling water

4. Those tomatoes have really taken off. They are now taller than the tomato cages and don't show any signs of slowing down. There are countless blossoms, and many baby tomatoes, growing on each plant. There are three plants, in three colors: red, orange, and yellow. I can't wait for ripe tomatoes fresh from the garden.