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Monday, August 20, 2018

While I was away...

These are the cards I received in my mailbox when I got home from vacation.

Novgorod Kremlin (UNESCO)--Russia

 Elderflower punch- From Germany. I have never tried elderberry but maybe I'll give the recipe on the back of this card a chance. 

Also from Germany. I learned about the band Brings from Koln. Interesting sound so far. I look forward to listening to more of the band. 

This incredible building is an aquarium in Russia. Very cool.

From the US. I have always wanted to see the Northern Lights in person. 

 From Washington. Ironically, I just spent a little time in Tennessee, where Elvis lived from the age of 13. I didn't go to the Memphis area though.

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UNESCO sites of Germany

I also got 4 letters, an advanced reader copy of a book and a traveling notebook from the Netherlands. 

Friday, August 10, 2018

Cards week of 8/6

This card is from Jenny in NY. Ironically, she had just been talking about my town with a co-worker when she was assigned to send me the Postcrossing card!

 John and Annie from Hong Kong sent me this card of the Asian instrument, guqin. They also send some great stamps showing traditional Chinese wedding attire and some national scenery.

Postcard  from Finland about a fairy tale that explains that gnomes are nice and not scary.
Schloss Weilburg an der Lahn. This card is from Poland. I would love to see what the inside of this building looks like!

Another palace, this time from Munich, Germany
     Alena from Russia introduced me to the musician Pelageya. Russian women have such a dark, low sound. Anyone know why that is? I like it.
      Look at this intense guy! This card is from Belgium.
This is from my postcard pal, Sheri. It was 114 degrees there when she wrote this card. I could not survive living in 114 degree weather!
     Today is also received an incredibly encouraging letter from a woman in India whom I've known online. God's timing is amazing and her letter was like fresh air to my soul. Arielle, I'm super grateful!
Another cool owl card sent from Tereza in Czech Republic.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Rest of cards from 7/23 and week of 7/30

This card is from Joan in Taiwan. She is a university student studying animal science. She also played violin for 10 years.

Nessa in MD chatted with me about music. I love this quote.

Tarva in Finland introduced me to the band Nightwish. (Nessa, if you are reading- it might be "harder" than your normal music, but you might like them! Holy cow, check out their Phantom of the Opera!!!) I really enjoyed their songs.


Aliessia sends a Pixar card for the boys. I read a book called Culture Code that mentioned how Pixar works to improve their movies. I highly recommend it.

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Then I also received a from Sheri in Az. (Sorry, I already filed this card away when I responded.) I was assigned to send her a card through Postcrossing and we decided to be postcard pals. This plant grows in her yard. The flowers of this plant only bloom once in the plant's lifetime of about 100 years. That's pretty cool. They started to bloom on her plant last month.

This card is from Thomas in Germany. It is a historic place called Hartenstein. I commented to him that it doesn't look too different from some of the houses in the US.

Dorothy in New York sent me this gorgeous card of the Williamstown Bridge and the Brooklyn Bridge. She loves walking across the Brooklyn Bridge, but I think I would be nervous. I know there's a section for walkers but it's a little too high up for me :)

This card from Milena in Poland shows some Polish symbols. The national costume and sausages were the ones I associated most with Poland. I didn't associate lavender with Poland before. I love learning new things.

This card is from Shawna who just moved from Minnesota to South Carolina. This reminds me a lot of the river we stayed by in Wisconsin, but the postcard shows the St. Croix River and we were on the Wisconsin River at the Dells.

Ha ha... I had never seen these "pressed fairies" before. Lady Cottington claimed to take photos of fairies. This is from "Lady Cottington's Pressed Fairy Book" by Terry Jones.  Thanks Cheryl.

Ludmila from Belarus sends this other fairy. Funny to get 2 fairies in a row. 

Can you tell I've been sending a lot of mail lately? It's great to see my mailbox so well-fed.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Mount TBR Mountaineering Checkpoint #2


1. Tell us how many miles you've made it up your mountain (# of books read).  If you're really ambitious, you can do some intricate math and figure out how the number of books you've read correlates to actual miles up Pike's Peak, Mt. Ararat, etc. And feel free to tell us about any particularly exciting adventures you've had along the way.
    At this point in the challenge I have read 20 out of 36 books. This is about 56% of the way. I will have no problem meeting my goal by the end of the year, though I am trying to do a few other challenges and review books for NetGalley. This is why I chose a somewhat low number for me. 

2. Complete ONE (or more if you like) of the following:

 A. Choose two titles from the books you've read so far that have a common link. You decide what the link is--both have strong female lead characters? Each focuses on a diabolical plot to take over the world? Blue covers? About weddings? Find your link and tell us what it is. 

What Elephants Know by Eric Dinerstein and A Handful of Stars by Cynthia Lord are both books that I read for summer reading with my youngest son, David. They are both winners of the Massachusetts Children's Book Award and both have a plot that heavily involves animals. In What Elephants Know, the main character, Nandu is training to become an elephant driver (a mahout). The story is set in Nepal so there are lots of animals you read about- elephants, tigers, rhinos and many types of birds. A Handful of Stars revolves partially around Lucky, a dog that is becoming blind. I also really liked these books.  Both books taught some good lessons about friendship and family. 

 B. Tell us about a book on the list that was new to you in some way--new author, about a place you've never been, a genre you don't usually read...etc. 
Noir  by Christopher Moore was new for me. I had never read any noir nor any Moore. A friend of mine wanted to do a book club so I bought the book and read it. Then her other friends bailed and we didn't have the book club.  The book was pretty amusing to me. I would be willing to give more books like this a try. 
 C. Which book (read so far) has been on your TBR mountain the longest? Was it worth the wait? Or is it possible you should have tackled it back when you first put it on the pile? Or tossed it off the edge without reading it all?
Maybe The Hobbit? This book belonged to my husband's family so it's probably been laying around the house for about 20 years. Lol

I can't seem to get rid of the tan background, sorry. These are my answers. These have been read during the challenge but many are ARCs I read.
OR (Counts as both part 1
Use titles from your list to complete as many of the following sentences below as you can.  If you haven't read enough books to give you good choices, then feel free to use any books yet to be read from your piles. I've given my answers as examples. Feel free to add or change words (such as "a" or "the" or others that clarify) as needed.
My Life According to Books
1. My Ex is/was The Hobbit by JRR. Tolkien
2. My best friend is [a] Live Wire by Harlan Coben
3. Lately, at work [kids have gotten] Educated by Tara Westover
4. If I won the lottery, [I'd buy] Tiny Infinities by JH Diehl
5. My fashion sense [is] A Treacherous Curse by Deanna Raybourne
6. My next ride [will bring me] Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
7. The one I love is The Prisoner in the Castle by Susan Ella Macneil
8. If I ruled the world, I would [change]  The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle
9. When I look out my window, I [see]  Quackery by
10. The best things in life are [heard in] The Song of a Captive Bird by Jasmin Darznik

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Cards week of 7/23

     This card was from Rotterdam in the Netherlands.  I learned about the Irish singer Glen Hansard. Surprisingly, I knew one of his songs, used in the musical Once. Thanks Martine!

    Look at this gorgeous card! I'd love to visit that cathedral. I wish my church looked like that ;)

This card comes from Germany. Drinks of the North. I love all of the cups the drinks are in. Too bad I don't drink alcohol, otherwise I'd try them all :)

     Well, I'm going to post this now, even though it's only Thursday because we will be away for a few days. Hopefully,I will have a ton in my mailbox waiting for me when we get home. Tim is competing for the state title in baseball. Super exciting!!

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Kids Art Week Day 3

Hopefully you will all get a laugh at my vulnerability on this one. We were supposed to use a masking technique on watercolor paper. My tape tore up all of my paper. I also had big plans for the disembodied cat legs but thought it was kind of funny, so I left it here. Tim jumped in on this one too. Mine is the cat (with "bear ears" Tim said). Tim did the seahorse and David did the fish.
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      I don't know if we'll get to do the next 2 lessons because we'll be away, but the boys were pretty excited about tomorrow so we may do them when we get back. I love seeing what they come up with.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Kids Art Week Day 2

    For today's lesson we had to scrape watercolor paints to create these butterflies. Honestly, the paint scraping was pretty satisfying and relaxing (Is that weird? lol) once we realized the watercolor paper we were using was way too thick. We switched to card stock and it worked much better. Both David and I had fun creating, but neither of us were in love with the final product. David came up with the idea to write a message on the under side of the wings then leave them somewhere in public to brighten someone's day. The color is a little more vivid in person, I was photographing them outside with my cellphone.

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Monday, July 23, 2018

Kids Art Week 2018

     Back in 2016, I participated in Carla Sondheim's Kids Art Week. I blogged about it towards the beginning of the week but seemed to get busy at the end of the week. Here were my two posts in 2016. Kids Art Week 2016: Day 2   We had so much fun participating last time that we decided to try it again this year. (I'm not sure what happened last year.)
      Today David and I did a project called "Put a Beak On It" where you created birds out of blobs of watercolor paint, markers and colored pencils. Other than getting our blobs to dry quickly in this incredibly humid weather, the project was pretty easy. (If you struggle with being creative, "finding the birds" was a little hard for me.) David thought it was really fun to make. Here are our projects:

 I like David's bird with the pink stomach and how creative he was with the bodies. I loved watching him create. If you're interested in jumping in, please join us! Sign up here. You don't have to be an artist; it's a lot of fun.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Quick reads

I read 2 books from my To Be Read shelf this week, Both were books that I had put there to either read with the boys or preview.
      This book was pretty creative. It is about 2 friends, Jack and Ruthie, who discover a key while on a field trip to see the Thorne Rooms at The Art Institute of Chicago.(I didn't realize until the end that this is a real exhibit. Check them out.) When Ruthie picks up the key, it gets warm in her hand and she begins to shrink. Fascinated by the rooms, she and Jack find a way to explore the Thorne Rooms in a quest to discover any other magic the rooms might hold. 
      This was a cute story. It wasn't really emotionally intense in any areas. I think kids from about 7-10 would like it most. 

     This was a re-read for me, but it had been a very long time. I remember feeling emotional while reading this book the first time. Rereading it now as an adult made me wonder how old I was the first time I read it. What a great book!

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Salt by Hannah Moskowitz

     I received a copy of Salt from Netgalley and Chronicle Books in exchange for an honest review.

      Salt is about a boy named Indi, who is 17. He and his siblings are orphaned after their parents disappear while hunting a sea creature named El Diamante.The kids live on their boat and continue to try to hunt these sea monsters, hoping for a possibility that they will discover what happened to their parents. 
     I wanted to like this book. The concept of being sics, people who see and hunt sea monsters, was interesting to me. I was hoping that I would hear more about the creatures they would encounter. There was a journal kept by their parents and a promise of treasure. There were aspects of the storyline that I really liked and wish the author had gone further into. There were also a few moments where I thought this book would have some nice family values thrown in.
       What I didn't like about the book is that the kids were involved with a lot of stuff that weren't really necessary. Both the older sister, Beleza and Indi had sexual encounters in the story, and it sounded like this was the norm. They also smoked and drank. There was also a lot of swearing in the book. I mentioned family values. I just felt weird going back and forth between a character expressing admiration about an older sibling and then a 6 year old swearing at her 12 year old brother. Then there were tender spots where a younger character would lovingly place their head on an older sibling's shoulder... and the 12 year old would routinely smack the 6 year old in the head or something. So, I don't know. I will say that I tend to be pretty conservative and that this book is geared to teens/young adults. I also thought about character development. Maybe these kids were the way they were because they've always lived at sea, daringly catching monsters and having to make things work on their own. I thought about whether I would pass this on to my sons to read. Ultimately I decided, I will not pass it on. There's not enough of a story to make the characters worth it to me. I do think that lots of young teens will enjoy the story, but it just wasn't for me. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Treated myself

     I'm not usually one to worry about beauty products or pampering myself, but I saw a commercials about Lush shampoo bars and became interested. I decided to go to our local LUSH store to check them out. I also wanted to take a look at some of their foot care products. As always, the second I walked into the store, I felt compelled to smell everything. Ha ha. Luckily, my tiny apartment doesn't have a bathtub so I don't have to worry about all of the bath bombs!
       Because I'm not rich, I'm always a little conscientious about price but this shampoo bar is supposed to last up to 80 washes, so that's like 2-3 bottles, right? I looked at the display and saw quite a few choices. The first shampoo bar that I saw was the Jason and the Argan Oil. I have had shampoo with Argan oil before and it was nice, but I LOVED the smell of this bar. I hated the smell of Seanik. A clerk came up to talk to me about what I was looking for and I told her I wanted to check out the shampoo bars and the foot care products. I told her that I liked the Jason and the Argan Oil bar. She said it's great but wondered if another shampoo bar, that was out of stock, might be better for my curly (and sometimes oily) hair. She told me they were getting more product on Thursday. I decided that I might come back another time for the bar. Then we went over to the foot care section.
      She showed me a few products: Volcano foot mask- My skin felt great but I'm probably not going to sit around with stuff drying on my feet so I knew this was a no go. (Plus, my bathroom is SUPER small so there's really nowhere to sit in there other than the obvious.)  Pumice Power: I liked the orange-y smell of this and it felt great on my skin. Pink Peppermint Foot Cream: I thought I would really like this. It was rich, creamy and luxurious feeling. It was also kind of cooling. Softy Foot Lotion: Initially I wasn't a huge fan. It was okay but I hadn't known about it before that visit so I wasn't super interested.
       I ended up buying the Pumice Power and getting a sample of Pink Peppermint.
Pumice Power     This is what the Pumice Power looks like. It exfoliates dead skin and I noticed a big difference after my first use. It contains orange oil and smells great.  Ironically, after using the Peppermint lotion, I decided I didn't really like it. It did make my feet softer and it did feel nice, but not as nice as some other lotions I have used. Also, I noticed that when I left the store, I kept getting a clean scent from somewhere. I noticed it was the arm that she used Softy on. It smelled very fresh and was super soft. It might be my next purchase.

MontalbanoJason And The Argan Oil   
      Ok, back to the shampoo. After about a week, I decided to go check out the new stock of shampoo bars. The one recommended to me, Montalbano, was in and had quite a few bars. Jason and the Argan Oil had 1 bar. This trip to LUSH was pretty entertaining because I had Tim with me. He's super careful at certain places because he has some allergies that can be in food or beauty products. (We once discovered a woman who made lotion with pumpkin oil, which he's deathly allergic to.) I asked his opinion on which one he liked better. Jason and the Argan Oil has a rosy smell, which I loved but my husband had previously mentioned that he didn't like. Montalbano smells lemony. Ultimately I decided to get the Montalbano since the clerk suggested it to me. When I was checking out, Tim joked with the cashier that I was making the wrong choice. The woman told Tim to go get the shampoo bar he thought I should get. Then she "gifted" it to us. She said that it was obvious that I had been trying to decide between the 2. I had already come back because they were out of stock. She didn't want me to regret not getting the Jason and the Argan Oil in case I had second thoughts. Now I could try both. (And for only $11.95!) Score! 
       I mainly use the Montalbano since that was "mine." I like to shower in the morning. The fresh, citrus smell in the morning is really refreshing to me. My hair feels clean and the bar lathers up very well. I have been wondering if it's making my hair a little less curly, but it could be our super humid weather. Multiple people have randomly mentioned that my hair looks really "glossy." My hair also feels super soft. I am really glad that I got this. I also tried the other bar. I love the smell of that one too. As a matter of fact, I mentioned that our bathroom was tiny. Every time I walk in, I can smell whatever shampoo bar was last used and it's made my bathroom smell great!
       A humorous side effect of my LUSH trip is that Tim has been using these too. He's used the Pumice Power a few times. He says: "It feels really nice. It felt really gritty at first, not in a bad way, and it really made my skin so much softer. I also tried it on my arm (where I have keratosis pilaris) and it cleared most of the extra rough spots."  The shampoo bar: "It was very, very, very delicious smelling and I was tempted to take a bite out of it. When I washed my hair my hair felt very silky but not in a very good way. Then, as I dried my hair it became soft and delicate." Don't tell his friends he's a LUSH addict. ha ha. Hey, anything that will get a 12 year old guy to willingly shower often is okay in my book.
        Have you ever tried any of these products? If so, what did you think? I think the next time I want to treat myself, I'm going to try Softy.

Latest Postcrossing cards

      It has been a while since I've written about Postcrossing. If you've never heard of Postcrossing, it's a great site that hosts a postcard exchange across the world. Basically, you register at their site, enter your preferences and sign up to send a card. Once your card is received, your address is assigned for someone else to send a card to. I love catching up during the summer and getting a ton of great mail over the summer. Both of the boys also do Postcrossing. I used it to teach them geography as well as to practice their writing. We all wrote a bunch of cards today so our mailbox will start getting busy again. Here are the cards I got last week:

This was a special one for me. The man assigned to send me a card has a daughter who is a music teacher at a university in Germany. So, he asked her to pick me a special card. The message on the back was great too. She told me about a children's book about Mozart and the new concert hall in Hamburg, which was also on the stamp. It's a pretty cool building that I had not seen before. Here's the stamp:

This second postcard impacted me a lot. It is of Kauhajoki, University of Applied Sciences, the site of a school shooting on September 23, 2008. As a teacher, school shootings make me absolutely nauseous. It's an upsetting topic for me, but this woman's daughter was a survivor of this incident. One of the things I really appreciate about Postcrossing is that you get to learn the stories of other people and how they live. I can't even imagine what I would feel if something like that happened at a school my children were in.

  I also loved the stamp on this one, Northern Lights:

My third postcard is from Ruby from England. This was the best mail of my week. She was thoughtful enough to send a card that she thought the boys might want to color. She also sent some currency, which the boys thought was super cool. Her chatty card talked about her birthday, the card, currency, music, Dodie and LUSH.

Last of all, I received this card from Margarita in Russia. I imagine that my boys would love playing in such a tree house. It also had a cool World Cup stamp.

    I have been sending a lot of Postcrossing cards out too. This is a card heading to Saint Petersburg, Russia tomorrow.