Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Wednesday Craft

I am going to start a new series on the blog called Wednesday Craft. And I'm serious about this one. I've been mulling the notion over and over in my mind and then realized I can do this and it won't even take too much effort.

Every other week at work, in Children's Department I create a Wednesday afternoon craft. It's an open program that kids can come participate in. I procure all the materials, they create and take it home. They are geared towards elementary aged kids, and are fairly simple. Younger kids can easily accomplish these crafts with a little adult help.

First up in the series....Coffee Filter Butterflies. Enjoy

Materials needed:
Coffee Filter -just one
Pipe cleaner -I used black but many of the children chose different colors

Step 1: Color and design the coffee filter how you like

 Step 2: Decide where you want the middle of your butterfly to be and gather it together

Step 3: Take your pipe cleaner and place your butterfly middle, where you've gathered it, in the middle of the pipe cleaner. Then fold one half of your pipe cleaner around the butterfly. Twist the pipe cleaner where the two halves meet a few times. After that you can decide if you want to curl the tips of your pipe cleaner to make antennae (like mine above).

The finished product should look something like mine above. It's a pretty easy craft, and I was worried about it being too simple, but the kids really enjoyed it and liked playing with them. Enjoy your butterfly!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

February Reads

Well, as you can see I only took a picture of one of the books I read for February. But, I read more than just the one. Books I read:

Church of Lies by Flora Jessop
Its Not Summer Without You by Jenny Han
We'll Always Have Summer by Jenny Han
Looking for Alaska by John Green
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
Risked (The Mising #6) by Margaret Peterson Haddix

I'm gonna just stick with a short review for each because, six reviews is a lot for one blog post.
My lease favorite will come first to get it over with, it's more fun to end on a good note. Church of Lies was probably my least favorite. I have read a lot of books written by ex-polygamists as I find their stories inspirational and also probably because I'm totally drawn to taboo subjects. Flora Jessop's story is definitely one of inspiration and her mission to help the poor souls stuck in polygamy is pretty amazing. Her experiences within polygamy and escaping are interesting, but I found the writing lacking in…something. Maybe she needed better editor(s) to help put it together better. In any case, if you are looking for some ex-polygamist books to read Stolen Innocence was a good read and so was Escape. Those two are stories of women who escaped from the FLDS we are probably most familiar with, the compound run by Warren Jeffs. Shattered Dreams is another polygamist book, but in her story her family moves around, and joins a group in Mexico for a time (while also being involved with groups the main stream population may be familiar with). These are definitely not books for the faint of heart, so keep that in mind.

It's not Summer Without You and We'll Always Have Summer were okay. I mostly read them because I had read the first, and while I was pretty sure of the conclusion of the series, I just had to be sure. Plus, YA romance novels are typically easy reads and can be finished in a few hours if you have the time. This series is a pretty tame romance novel as in the main character doesn't have sex ever in the series, it's mentioned but she really only kisses/makes out in the series. For that reason I think it's a good recommendation for a tween, or maybe even a 6th grade girl who reads above her grade level but isn't ready for full fledged YA novels yet.

Looking For Alaska was a pretty great YA novel. Of course, it doesn't hold any light to The Fault in Our Stars (I'm very excited for the movie, although the main guy isn't as cute as I imagined him being. haha), also written by John Green. It's a good novel about a teenage boy who changes schools, has to make new friends and the drama surrounding that. Plus, he experiences a big life changing event and it goes through how he deals with it. This is the second John Green book I've read, and both have had similar themes, which makes me wonder if all of his do. In any case, the main character experiences a major life changing event, which is pretty sad, but not heart wrenching like The Fault in our Stars. It's a good YA read.

The One and Only Ivan was such a sweet story and I see exactly why it won the 2013 Newberry Award (although, I did LOVE Wonder, and maybe kind of wish it won, but oh well). It's a story of a Gorilla in captivity (not a zoo) and how he lives his life, and the friends he has. It's a great story of an underdog who doesn't seem to have much going for them but then fixating on a worthy goal and doing anything to meet it. The story has some sad elements, but ends pretty happily. It's a very easy read, written in "journal style" from the point of view of the Gorilla, Ivan.

Risked, part 6 in the Missing series was great. I've loved reading this series as each installment comes out. It's part sic-fi part historical fiction (which is why I love it). This particular installment focused on Anastasia and Alexei Romanov. Haddix planned to write one of her installments in the series about the two "missing" Romanov children before their bodies were found in 2007. She decided to still write on them and I'm so glad she did. I loved the Romanov "mystery" as a kid and was happy with how she presented them in the plot of the series. This is a great series that I am constantly recommending to kids,  I would say it's probably 4th-5th grade reading level and whenever I describe the plot to kids they seem pretty eager to check it out (one even said "wow" once). Love it, can't wait for the next one.

That's all my books for February. I know it came late, I know it came without many pictures, but it's a work in progress okay? Plus, at least I put links to the books on Amazon if you want to buy them. But of course, you can always check them out at the library and if you feel so inclined feel free to add me on Goodreads my username is lindseypilgrim, but I think you can find me if you just type my full name in too (lindsey watts). Have any good suggestions for me?

Sunday, February 9, 2014

January Reads

One of my goals for this year is to read a young adult book, a children's chapter book, and an adult book each month. I have found myself loving this goal, and it has been a long time since I've really allowed myself to give in to reading, to immerse myself in books.

My least favorite book in January was Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson. I think, in my mind I had built this book up to be more than what it is. I'm not really sure what to make of it. I suppose it is fairly interesting because it is a true story and it seems so impossible to me. Throughout the book Thompson and his "attorney" are chasing the American Dream, or at least, they claim they are. The story follows their drug induced trip to Las Vegas and basically the only constant is their desire to find the American Dream. The plot was difficult to follow, and I guess I shouldn't have been surprised as Thompson is under the influence of some drug basically the whole time. I can't tell if having experience with recreational drug use would allow me to connect to the story more or not. In either case, I decided it was not worth finding out. I don't even know what to say about this book. It's pretty amazing that this man was able to basically stay awake for 80 hours and on drugs and get away with so much. Yeah, it was the beginning of the 70s but still, it seems pretty far fetched and amazing it actually happened. I have yet to watch the movie, I assume it has a bit more structure because it is a film, but I guess I'll find out.

I read two children's chapter books during January: The Book of Three by Alexander Lloyd and Battle of the Ampere by Richard Paul Evans. The Book of Three is the first in the Black Cauldron series. I loved the animated movie as a child (fascinated with death and scary things) and at a friends strong recommendation I decided to give the series a whirl. It was okay. I've read worse children's chapter books and I have also read better. I haven't moved on to the second book, and I am not sure that I will. I dislike not finishing series so I may just to finish but I am not in a rush to move on. It seemed as though Lloyd could have added much more detail in the book, and I wished he had. Characters were introduced with little back story or much description on who/what they are. For example, when the bard (or I guess the fake bard) was introduced I didn't really get a feel for what a bard even is, or does. Something with music I assume? I realize that because there are more books in the series the plot will continue and maybe more will come to light, but I really wish there had been more substance to the story. It was a good adventure story, unlikely people becoming friends, and unlikely hero etc.

Battle of the Ampere is the third book in the Michael Vey series by Richard Paul Evans. The first book was great. It follows Michael Vey and his friends who have been exposed to some sort of energy at birth that has given him and his friends (save for a few) some special abilities. The Elgen corporation that created the machine that gave the kids the abilities is attempting to use their powers to eventually "rule the world". Some of the children with abilities have teamed up with the Elgen and Michael and his friends are fighting against them. In this third installment Michael and his friends attempt to bring down the leader of the Elgen. With all odds against them there seems to be no chance of their success but near the end it appears as if they might pull off this incredible feat. As far as children's series go, it's not bad. It's a decent adventure story, unlikely heroes (they are only, like 15 years old) and who doesn't love super powers? The main character also has Tourette syndrome and I always appreciate an underdog coming out on top. As far as other series go, I think I enjoy the Missing series by Margaret Peterson Haddix, but it is still pretty enjoyable.

The young adult book I chose for this month was The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han. It is also a series of three books, I've finished them all by now, but only read the first one for January. It is a pretty typical young adult book, definitely geared towards girls. The story follows 'Belly' (Isabelle) who visits a summer house on the beach each year with family friends. The other family has two boys close in age and she has always been in love with the older boy, Conrad. This summer she is in her teens and blossoms. Throughout the summer she is determined to grab the attention of Conrad. At moments she seems to have succeeded, but has also gotten the attention of the younger brother Jeremiah. It ends with somewhat of a cliffhanger, propelling you to read the second. This ya book was…okay. It wasn't a trashy ya novel but it wasn't anything amazing. I enjoyed it, and felt it was exactly what I needed right then. I would never pick it as a must read, but for a somewhat innocent romance novel it fit the bill perfectly.

That's my round up for January. Next month I will try to post my books sooner, with pictures, and with my review skills more honed. Honestly, I could write a five page essay on these books easily, but I struggle when it comes to reviews. Making it succinct, but with enough substance. I will also try to rate them for age groups. This is also something I am trying to become better at, knowing what age is appropriate for the material as well as reading level. Any suggestions for future reads? Goodreads is really helping me out. I am surprised at how much I enjoy looking up its recommendations for me.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Best, Almost Paleo Chili

Last week I was perusing pinterest and saw a pin for a yummy looking chili that claimed to be the best as well as paleo. I found it from this blog.
Her exact recipe is paleo, but when I was thinking about the traditional chili I've always had included some beans, which her recipe did not. So, I included a can of kidney beans. I'm not really familiar with the paleo diet, but I think it doesn't include beans, or only some beans? If you can clarify, let me know, cause I don't care enough to look it up but if one of my friends wants to enlighten me, please do so.

Best Paleo (almost) Chili
2 lbs. of grass fed ground beef
1 large zucchini, chopped *I had a hard time finding large ones, so I actually bought 3 smallish ones
1 medium sized sweet onion (yellow), chopped
1 tablespoon of coconut oil
1 large can of crushed tomatoes
1 small can of tomato paste
1 small can of water (I just reused my tomato paste can)
3-4 tablespoons of chili powder
1 tablespoon of granulated garlic
1-2 tablespoons of paprika
3 teaspoons of salt
*can of kidney beans, rinsed and drained
Directions: On medium heat cook down your coconut oil, then add your chopped onion and cook for several minutes until they become fragrant and softened, I think I cooked mine for 4 minutes? I didn't really time it. Then stir in a dash of salt and a pinch of your chili powder. Incorporate the ground beef and cook it with the onions, add a tablespoon of chili powder and paprika and a teaspoon of salt. Once the ground beef is completely cooked include the zucchini and let sit on medium heat for a few minutes, I stirred mine in and then let it sit without touching for three minutes. Next, add in the tomato paste, the can of tomatoes and the water and the rest of the seasoning. Stir all together and let simmer on the stove for 1-2 hours. I turned the heat down to the middle of low and medium. About every twenty minutes I would check on it and give it a good stir (but only because I have never left anything on the stove for 2 hours and so I wasn't sure how it would go). I let mine cook for just about the full two hours, most of the liquid was cooked down by then and supposedly the flavor is best by the two hours. 

This chili was so delicious. Seriously, I will definitely be eating and making this probably for the rest of my life. The prep was so easy with only two veggies to chop, but there is the wait time. 

Anyone have any chili recipes they want to swap? It's my new found love. Also, I have never been one to include much spice, and I mean, three T of chili powder and two of paprika? That is UNHEARD of for me, but I decided to trust the recipe (plus her kids eat it, so I figured it couldn't be that spicy, right?) and I'm so glad I did. It is not spicy at all, probably because the spices are all cooked down, but I've never had any chili that flavorful. I loved it, if you can't tell. 

Goals for the Year

Here, finally, are my goals for the new year:

-Read 3 books each month (minimum) -one adult, one young adult, and one children's (chapter) book (with a blog review/update each month of the books)
-Cook 2 to 3 dinner meals each week (with enough for leftovers the next days lunch or dinner)
- Find physical activity that I love and pursue it frequently (every other day). Attend barre classes every other day with the additional workout (strength training or run) on the weekend, for at least the next few months
-Have a full time job with benefits by my birthday
-Complete at least one cross stitch this year, have it framed
-Complete at least one painting this year
-Complete at least one drawing this year

Addendum: Right now I love barre classes, and feel they are doing great things for me. However, I really am just on the search for physical activity I thoroughly enjoy and after 6 months I may be all barred out, you know? Right now though, I am really enjoying them.

Before, when I've come up with new year's resolutions they tend to be big projects, but I always come away disappointed that I wasn't able to live up to all my expectations. I feel like these are truly attainable but also good achievements for myself. Before my last semester's art class it had been years since I had drawn or painted, so I think one of each this year will be a good, attainable and achievable goal. I am really excited about the reading goal, now that I'm out of school I can finally finish books I have started and dig into my long list of books I want to read, like, finally tackling Anna Karenina.

So far I have read all but my young adult book for the month and read two children's chapter books; made a delicious beef stroganoff last week and yesterday I made some amazingly simple and delicious almost paleo chili last night (recipe coming up).