Friday, February 24, 2017

Miscellany

The internet in our building is not the best (nor the most consistent), and it seems like every other afternoon I get to see the charming little dinosaur on this frustrating page:


While reading for my Intro to Cataloging class (ok actually it's called "Organization of Knowledge" which is way more intense and cool, but it's essentially a cataloging class), in the section on preferred search terms, I came along this funny snippet (which probably isn't funny to anyone but me):


In case you can't read it, it says:

Non-preferred term USE Preferred term
Asses USE Donkeys

Basically what it's saying is that the preferred search term for this catalog is "Donkeys"(so you should search "Donkeys" instead of "Asses") but for some reason my 12 year old brain kicked in and found this hilarious. And now I have immortalized that moment on my blog forever. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Painting

Lately, I spend Sunday afternoons with some soft music and my water color set. I'm not great at watercolor, but I do really enjoy it, and I find it exceptionally soothing! 

So, although I know these aren't perfect, I'm going to post them anyways, because I've really enjoyed making them. 

First: I already posted these on facebook/instagram, but these are reproductions of some college humor Puritan Valentines that I thought were HILARIOUS. And they were fun to paint, too! 


Second: Nikolai wanted me to paint him something, so I painted him a quote that he said when he first started talking, and wanted to let us know that he was awake one morning. 


(also, sorry for the photo quality from here on out--my phone does not have a great camera!)

Finally, here's some little Valentine's cards I painted for the kids. They're really small--I've included my finger for scale. It kind of gave me a hand cramp to paint so small but I really liked the end products!  


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Siblings

Friends, I need a moment of silence, to honor a magical experience happening in our home these days: 

Miriam and Nikolai are playing together, and haven't learned to fight with each other yet!

*...............*

Really guys, it's incredible. They play with toys, they build with Legos, they chase each other around shrieking (a bit hard on my ears, sure, but they do love it!), and more! They have little disagreements, yes, but they haven't learned to get into full-blown fights yet. (Anyone with older kids want to let me know how long we've got until that happens?) Until they do, we're in a blissful, magical land of sibling play, and I love it! 

The other day, I was reading on the couch (which I'm doing basically constantly in order to read all of the books required for one of my classes) and the kids were watching tv quietly. I heard Niko say something to Miri, and then I looked over and saw this:


😍😍😍😍

Seriously. I think I melted into a puddle of happy mom-ness. 

Also super cute: Miri wanted to help mix the pancakes the other day, and she actually did a good job! I was definitely expecting her to try for a minute and then get stir-crazy (*ba-dum-chhhhh*), but she stirred slowly and carefully the whole time. 


(ok, except for at the end when I came in with a fork to finish it off and began mixing vigorously--then she got a HUGE grin on her face and started mixing crazy too)


And finally, here's the latest picture stump picture: 


Monday, February 20, 2017

Books read 2016

WHOA GUYS. I just remembered today that I never posted the list of books that I read in 2016! I guess that's what happens when your laptop is out of commission and then you start classes...which reminds me, my laptop cord came the day after I posted all those blog posts. Yay!

(For reference, here's the posts for 2014 and 2015).

This year, I read a total of 60 books and 18,719 pages. 

Here's the categories: 

Adult Fiction: 9
Adult Non-Fiction: 10
Juvenile Fiction: 1
Juvenile Graphic Novel: 9
Juvenile Historical Fiction: 1
Memoir: 3
YA Fantasy: 21
YA Graphic Novel: 4
YA Historical Fiction: 1
YA Sci Fi: 1

Although I had a very busy year (work/classes/moving), I read more books and pages than last year, though this can mostly be accounted for by my having read several graphic novels this year!

And here's the books (I've starred my very favorites, though I greatly enjoyed almost all of these):

January

1. Hyperbole and a Half  by Allie Brosh -- Including posts from the popular blog Hyperbole and a Half, Allie Brosh illustrates stories from her childhood along with her adult struggles with depression. 

*2. Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman -- I read this juvenile fantasy book aloud to Nikolai and he loved the quirky storytelling and occasional illustrations. 

3. Hurricane Dancers by Margarita Engle -- The account of a young native american boy in the Caribbean and his run-ins with pirates, this book is written in prose poetry and is highly enjoyable. 

4. A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller -- We read this memoir for bookclub and it was thought-provoking, following the lessons the author learning while writing a previous book.

5. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel -- This post-apocalyptic story follows characters in Canada and Michigan two decades after a super virus decimates the human population.

February

6. Winter by Marissa Meyer -- The final book in the Lunar Chronicles series. I really enjoyed this one. 

*7. Magonia by Maria Headley -- Follows a young sick girl who discovers she isn't sick--she's actually from a different race of humans that live in the clouds. This book was magical and charming and I look forward to reading more books set in this world. 

8. Man's Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl -- We read this for book club, and it was helpful to have a group to sort through this heavy but meaningful about the Holocaust. 

March 

9. Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman -- It's hard to go wrong with a collection of short stories by Neil Gaiman. This one was spooky and delightful!

*10. Front Lines by Michael Grant -- This alternate historical fiction tells the story of WWII, wherein both men and women were called up for the draft. Michael Grant's recounting of the difficulties of training and soldier life and horrors of combat were astoundingly vivid, while still being appropriate for a YA audience. 

11. The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls -- We read this memoir for book club, which followed the childhood of a woman with transient and slightly mentally unstable parents. 

12. Saving Alex by Alex Cooper with Joanna Brooks -- With help from Joanna Brooks, Alex Cooper tells the story of being sent to reform therapy after she comes out as gay. 

April

13. The Shadow Queen by C.J. Redwine -- This Snow White re-telling is intriguing and well written. I look forward to more books in this series!

14. Stars Above by Marissa Meyer -- A selection of short stories to go along with the Lunar Chronicles series.

*15. Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi -- This book follows different members of an African American family and their reactions to the death of their estranged father/husband. This was a perfect book club book, because there was a lot of weighty material to discuss! 

16. The Very Good Gospel by Lisa Sharon Harper -- I don't remember much about this book, probably because it was good but not very memorable. 

17. The Stonekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi -- The first book in the Amulet juvenile graphic novel series. These books are magical and interesting. I highly recommend them! 

18. The Stonekeeper's Curse by Kazu Kibuishi -- The second book in the Amulet juvenile graphic novel series. 

19. The Cloud Searchers by Kazu Kibuishi -- The third book in the Amulet juvenile graphic novel series. 

May

20. The Last Council by Kazu Kibuishi -- The fourth book in the Amulet juvenile graphic novel series. 

21. Prince of the Elves by Kazu Kibuishi -- The fifth book in the Amulet juvenile graphic novel series. 

22. Escape from Lucien by Kazu Kibuishi -- The sixth book in the Amulet juvenile graphic novel series. 

23. Firelight by Kazu Kibuishi -- The seventh book in the Amulet juvenile graphic novel series. 

*24. Zeroes by Scott Westerfeld -- Six Californian teenagers with unusual powers get in a lot of trouble. Scott Westerfeld books are always good and this one was no exception--very clever and enjoyable! 

25. 1984 by George Orwell -- I had never read this classic book, and reading it for book club was a great way to discuss its intricacies. (Note: we read this pre-election and it was weird then--I can't imagine reading it now!)

June

26. Lumberjanes: Friendship to the Max by Noelle Stevenson -- This YA graphic novel follows some teenage girls at summer camp. Obviously magical beasts come out of the forest--why not? This is the second book in the series. 

27. Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld -- This book was interesting--its chapters alternatively followed a young woman who was trying to edit a manuscript she had written for NaNoWriMo, and the story she had written. It was a little unusual to keep moving back and forth between a fantasy world and the real world, but it was still a good book. 

28. I Work at a Public Library by Dina Sheridan -- This non-fiction book relates interesting and funny encounters between librarians and patrons. I definitely had a good laugh with this one! 

*29. The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler -- I was surprised by how much I liked this book. A middle-aged man goes through a divorce and his life turns upside down. It's a fairly straight-forward premise but was delivered excellently. I read this for book club and was not surprised to see that many people had mixed reactions to the book!

30. Lumberjanes: A Terrible Plan by Noelle Stevenson -- The third book in the Lumberjanes series. They just keep getting better! 

July

31. A Thousand Nights  by E.K. Johnston -- This 1,001 nights retelling was charming and innovative. 

32. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Vol 1: Squirrel Power by Ryan North -- I'm not a big comics gal, but I made an exception for Squirrel Girl. It was so good! 

33. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Vol 2: Squirrel You Know It's True  by Ryan North -- The second volume. 

*34. Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri -- Like many Lahiri books, these short stories followed Indian-American immigrants and their children. I loved this book, and these stories are even more profound now that I've had an expat experience myself. 

35. Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler -- I hoped to like this retelling of Taming of the Shrew more than I did. Alas, I was disappointed.

August

*36. Half the Sky by Sheryl DuWunn and Nicholas Kristoff -- This book has been around for awhile but I finally got around to reading this account of the systematic abuse of women around the globe. This was eye opening and I think everyone should read it! 

37. Defiance by C.J. Redwine -- This dystopian fantasy is by the author of a book I loved earlier in the year, but I was sorely disappointed with this series. It was poorly written with plot holes and unbelievable characters. However, that didn't stop me from reading the whole thing! (See books below)

38. Deception by C.J. Redwine

39. Deliverance by C.J. Redwine

40. The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh -- Another 1,001 nights retelling. I'm not sure which one I liked better!

September

41. Unnatural Creatures by Neil Gaiman and Maria Dahvana Headley -- Again, another set of short stories, this time edited by Neil Gaiman and Maria Dahvana Headley. I love a good set of short stories and this one was great. 

42. Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George -- A good old princess story! This series was clever and interesting and entertaining. 

43. Princess of Glass by Jessica Day George -- Sequel to Princess of the Midnight Ball 

October 

44. Chronicle of a Last Summer by Yasmine El Rashidi -- A coming-of-age story following a young Egyptian woman, told in three different summers of her life. My only complaint about this book is that it was too short!

45. Princess of the Silver Woods by Jessica Day George  -- Sequel to Princess of Glass

46. Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes -- The first in the Falling Kingdoms series. This is billed as Game of Thrones for a YA audience, and while I haven't read/seen Game of Thrones, I think it fits. I like this series conceptually but I'm often disappointed by the writing, which is mostly good but often poor. Still, that hasn't stopped me from reading all of the released books! 

November

47. Dracula by Bram Stoker -- A friend recommended I read this book for Halloween and I finished i the day after. It was delightfully spooky!

48. Calamity Jack by Shannon Hale -- Nikolai and I read this Juvenile Graphic Novel together and it was a hoot. Shannon Hale is the best! 

49. Rebel Spring by Morgan Rhodes -- The second book in the Falling Kingdoms series.

50. Gathering Darkness by Morgan Rhodes -- The third book in the Falling Kingdoms series.

51. Nothing New Under the Sun by Adam Miller -- This modern re-wording of Ecclesiastes was short and compelling.  

December

*52. Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris -- I loved this memoir about a woman's search for God.

53. Freezing Tides by Morgan Rhodes -- The fourth book in the Falling Kingdoms series.

*54. Black Earth by Timothy Snyder -- This book examined WWII from the perspective of the Eastern front. It was devastating and necessary to read about the massive and systematic loss of life in countries like the one I live in now. I especially appreciated getting a fuller look at WWII, adding on to the Western front narrative that we're all so familiar with. 

55. In Wartime by Tim Judah -- The story of the current war in Ukraine, told through stories of interactions with ordinary Ukrainians.

*56. Atlantia by Ally Condie -- I haven't always loved Ally Condie's work in the past but this under-the-sea dystopia was ethereal and enchanting. 

*57. Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier -- Another Juvenile graphic novel, this one about a young girl whose family moves to the seaside, where the air will be better for her sick sister's lungs. There, she discovers that the whole town is haunted! 

58. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling -- I finally got around to reading this (once Jesse decided I should skip the 453 person long waiting list for the e-book and just bought it for me for Christmas!) and it was excellent. I loved delving back into the Harry Potter world and I felt like this book fit right in with the others. Now I'm dying to see the play!!

*59. Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo -- The sequel to Six of Crows, this book was excellent. I love the world Bardugo has created and I am only disappointed because this was not a trilogy!

60. The Kindness Challenge by Shaunti Feldhahn -- I read this book for Blogging for Books, and it was very thought-provoking. The author examines ways to increase kindness in our lives, starting with one individual and applying three ways to increase our ability to be kind towards them. It sounds pretty sappy but the three things she suggests are simple and profound, and I look forward to implementing them in my life. 

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Thirty!

A few weeks ago, Jesse turned 30! I had the great idea to give him 30 presents (because I like making a big deal out of birthdays, even if Jesse doesn't), so I planned out a bunch of presents and he got to open them all day long. Some of them were freebies like "Let's play Agricola tonight!" or "I owe you a massage," while others helped boost my numbers count (for instance, I bought him some music and counted each of the 10 songs towards the total count).

One of his presents was going to the local Pushkin museum. I've been meaning for us to go since we moved here, but we hadn't gotten around to it, so his birthday was the perfect chance! For those that aren't aware (aka most of you non-Russophiles), Alexander Pushkin was a Russian poet (who lived 1799-1837) who is today one of Russia's best-loved poets. As for Jesse, he read a lot of his work in his undergrad program and enjoyed it a lot. 

From 1820 to 1823, Pushkin's military commission was changed so that he was stationed in Chisinau (and by "stationed" I mean he was actually exiled here for writings that displeased the Tsar, but they called it "stationed"). He lived on the property of some well-to-do Moldovans, and the small house where he lived has been preserved, with a separate building nearby housing the museum. 



From the museum, it sounded like Pushkin spent his three years in Moldova partying, joining the free masons and writing poetry. Not a bad exile if I say so myself! 


Jesse is growing his hair out right now and I am secretly hoping that his hair goal is something like Pushkin's #poethair


In the corner of the museum, I spotted this old rotary phone. I'm pretty sure it's still in use!


The museum had a lot of artifacts from his time in Moldova, including correspondence with friends and sketches and snippets of his manuscripts. It always love seeing things created or touched by historical figures--I'm so used to the stories of them that I forget that they really lived, and seeing these items makes them suddenly real for me. 


The coolest thing we saw was the first draft of Pushkin's novel Eugene Onegin, which he started while in Chisinau:


Alas, kids + museums = stir-crazy kids after 20 minutes, so we cut our visit shorter than we'd have liked and headed out of the museum to check out the little house where Pushkin lived. It was small--just two rooms inside.


After the museum we headed home for more presents and celebrations, before heading out to a new restaurant for Jesse's birthday dinner, and then home again for cake after. 


Jesse doesn't like big birthday celebrations (he'd rather have a Hobbit birthday where he gives presents away) but I wanted to make a big deal of this one--after all, you only leave your 20s once! I have to say, 30 really suits Jesse so far (probably because he's actually been 30 since he was 15). Happy birthday my love! 

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Experiments / Food

For Christmas, I gave Nikolai a homemade science kit: It included 9 experiments to do together, with full instructions and additional items needed to do the experiments. They have been really fun to do together! 

We did the traditional celery/carnations in colored water, which was a big hit:


And my favorite by far has been floating grapes (done using plain water and sugar water, and used to discuss density). Niko loved it! 


We also did a really great one on the decay of a banana (we put mashed banana in a jar with a balloon over the top, and as the banana decayed it produced gases and inflated the balloon), one with a pinhole camera, and of course a balloon rocket is always a hit. Soon we'll do more complex ones where we test for acids and bases, and another where we'll find out which pigments exist in a green spinach leaf. I'm excited! 

Aaaaand MAJOR PIVOT because now I'm going to tell you about some awesome food we've had lately. 

First off was this INCREADIBLE pear/Gruyere/walnut pizza we had:


And then this Tarragon flavored soda we had a new years (it was strange but good!):


And finally, ramen noodles that are surprisingly more delicious than the ones we bought in America:


Also notice a funny thing we see a lot in Moldova: the outside of the packaging is in Romanian, but the oil packet that comes inside is in Russian! 

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Family

An assorted collection of photos documenting normal life in our home: 

Exhibit A: Family Movie Night (every Friday night, usually with "Pop-corn! Yeah! Pop-corn!" -Miri)


Exhibit B: Washi tape and writing courtesy of Niko


Exhibit C: Miriam began sleeping in a big-kid bed, but wanting to sleep in Niko's instead of hers. 


Exhibit D: These two love each other and it melts my heart! 


Exhibit E: Niko has realized that he can include Miriam in imaginary play, so the other day they built a "castle" together behind the door in their room. Hooray!


Exhibit F: On Thurday nights, we knit. 


Exhibit G; Our house is almost always noisy. So noisy.

video

And finally, pictures from the picture stump!