Thursday, February 26, 2015

Art Thursday -- February 26th

"Off to the Market"
This was definitely inspired by "The Little House on the Prairie".  The picture shows me and Ozzy heading off to the market with our goods in a wagon, while the husband and other children stay behind.  I like that she now draws my husband's hair (he's the blonde) as fluffy as it really is.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

What-What?! Week of February 22nd

This week has been so nuts that I haven't thought about what I'm going to write.  Today's post is going to be a bit short.  Oops.

Yesterday, I took Saffron to a Girls Scouts event to pick up her sash, pins, and books.  It was a kickoff for the summer camps, and had a bunch of different activities.  She roasted her first-ever marshmallow and made s'mores.  She tells me it was delicious.
She also got to 'ride' in a boat, and decorate her own picture frame.  It was a ton of fun.

News:  The Most Popular New Vehicles in Each State via Yahoo Autos

Data: IHS Automotive/Graphic: Yahoo Autos. Click to enlarge
This was pretty entertaining, and about what I expected for Washington state.  When we moved up here, the farther north we got, the more Subarus we saw.  In Washington, you practically trip over them; I've even seen some of the more unusual varieties, like the regular sedans, the Justy, and the Baja.  What makes the numbers for Subaru more interesting is that Subaru doesn't generally have anyone buying the brand for commercial fleets, so nearly all those new cars sold are to consumers.  I'm part of the Subaru forum on Reddit, and have read about the waitlists for the new models.  Also, many owners live places where there is snow; the article mentions that, in many of the states where a truck was ranked highest, the highest ranking car was a Subaru.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Art Thursday -- February 19th

"So Fancy!"
This is not the pinnacle of artistic ability, but I think it's hilarious.  Probably influenced by some of the "Fancy Nancy" books read at the library.  Her coloring skills have gotten better since she did this.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

What-What?! Week of February 15th

Happy day after Valentine's Day everyone! :P

The husband and I had a lovely steak dinner at home (first time we've bought beef in months).

Wednesday, Saffron had her first Girl Scouts meeting.  It's a new troop that the leader is forming because the waitlist for a troop was outrageous -- 38 people in Northern Everett alone, not counting any of us in the South end.  Saffron seemed to have fun, and the other adults seem nice enough.  I'm not 100 percent sold on Girl Scouts.  The curriculum activities seem very structured, and the program divides the girls into age groups that don't seem to interact with each other much.  But I've committed myself to sticking it out for a year, unless of course Saffron isn't enjoying it, or something decisively awful happens.

In other news, today is Flag Day in Canada, a holiday declared when they last chose a new flag in 1964.  The National Post has a great article about the process, and the various options that were mailed in.  Some are pretty good, while others are just terrible.  It's an interesting read for sure.

Book Review:  Scoundrels: Star Wars by Timothy Zahn

This story follows Han Solo through an Ocean's 11-type heist adventure.  Rated at 4.3 stars, this book has great reviews on Amazon.  But... I don't know.  There's nothing wrong with this book; the characters are lively and interact well, it's well integrated into the Star Wars universe, and the plot is good.  I didn't dislike it, not at all.  But I was expecting the book to be a Han Solo and Chewbacca show, with Lando thrown in for good measure -- it wasn't.  I was expecting this to be a fast paced romp, like many other Zahn books -- it wasn't.  With those two reservations put aside, it was quite enjoyable.  Like I said, the plot is good, though the pacing is sometimes slow.  The ensemble cast is filled with interesting, nuanced characters, who have believable interactions.  The antagonists are intimidating and powerful.  There is a twist at the end that would have been better either left out or integrated better with some of the other behind-the-scenes events.  I was disappointed that there wasn't more done with certain characters.  I do think this is a 4-star book, but not quite to my taste.

Oh!  My middle son has started getting into Star Wars, and was very interested in this book.  At one point, he begged me to read it to him.  He sat on my bed with me and listened to me read for a good 45 minutes.  This is a kid who can't sit still for a 20 minute TV show.  I was impressed.  I read it to him a few more times, too, which makes me think that I need to find some more Star Wars books to read. :P

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Art Thursday -- February 12th

"Subzero Adventure"
Our family in the snow with penguins, polar bears, and wolves.  The left side shows Daddy feeding the penguins fish.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

What-What?! Week of February 8th

This week wasn't terrible by any means, but it really dragged on.  We had a pretty big storm roll through, and everything's still wet.  I want to go to the park and see the sun.  The husband came home with some California strawberries on Friday as a treat, and they were delicious.  They were from southern California, and weren't as good as Watsonville strawberries, but still a welcome taste of home.

Book Review:  The Mini Farming Handbook by Brett L. Markham

I didn't go looking for this book.  It just so happens that the gardening and farming books are on the same aisle as the cookbooks at the library.  I saw this book, and never made it to the other end to grab a cookbook. :P

Right now, the husband and I are house shopping, and one of the biggest considerations we have for a house (after other important stuff like the condition of the house, neighborhood, etc.) is the outdoor spaces.  It is our goal to have a large garden, and ideally some chickens or something, too.

We have read and own a few different books about small scale homesteading, and I really like The Mini Farming Handbook because it is very unpretentious.  The author is an organic farmer, but yet there is a section in the book about using pesticides.  This is because, as the author points out, if you are dependent upon that crop to feed your family, you are far less able to take a risk on growing organic produce; where an organic farmer can sell their produce at a higher price to make up for low crop yields, someone farming just for themselves will have a much harder time with such problems.

The sections on cheese and wine making are also very well written; the husband has spent more time reading about the wine making section, but I was very pleased with the discussion of cheese making.  I've looked into cheese making before, and have been put off by the exacting nature of it; it's only so practical to hit exact temperatures for long periods of time in your home.  There is a discussion of this very problem, and what can be done to mitigate it.

The husband and I like it enough that this is one book that we're planning on buying for our personal library.  I highly recommend reading it if this sort of thing interests you.

Next week, I'll be reviewing Scoundrels: Star Wars by Timothy Zahn.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Art Thursday -- February 5th

"A Very Bad Guy"
This drawing is by Corwin.  I'm pretty sure that this is either Darth Vader or the Lich King.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

What-What?! Week of February 1st

This week has been good, but busy; Peter worked a bunch of overtime, plus had to drive up to Seattle yesterday, so he's spent a good deal of time not home.  I was contacted by the local Girl Scouts coordinator, and now Saffron and I are RSVP'd for the first troop meeting later this month.  I'm excited to start getting Saffron involved in some real activities; I know that the time I spent in 4-H had a lot to do with my interests and competencies growing up.

News: How Regulation Leads To Low Literacy Among Teachers, Then Students via Forbes

I kind of hate citing Forbes, as I find that the articles tend to be written from a perspective that's a bit sideways of reality, but sometimes there are still good points.  This author is discussing the fact that teachers (K-12) who graduate from conventional education programs tend to score low on literacy and English tests.  I've taken some education classes, and to be honest, this surprises me little.  It has been my experience that education teachers tend to coddle students by giving them extended deadlines (even after they've been extended already!), subjective rather than objective projects, and very lenient grading.  My business school education was quite different. (Though not all education and business schools are the same).

Further, one of the issues I keep wondering about teaching and the teaching credential programs is whether it gives people too few options.  If teachers instead had a bachelor's degree in something else, then the option of leaving teaching if it doesn't suit them becomes much easier.  Granted, this country already has huge problems with teachers leaving the profession, but I think that making it more difficult to leave the profession is just poor policy.  While I don't object to teacher credentialing, I wonder if it's too strict in some ways; one thing that I like about California is that, in order to become a substitute teacher, you only need to pass a test, get fingerprinted, and background checked.  Washington state requires a full teaching degree and credential in order to substitute teach.  With all my experience in teaching in afterschool programs, I've been interested in teaching as a profession.  However, now that we're living in Washington, I have given up on it; the expense and time to get a full teaching credential is prohibitive to someone interested in testing the waters.    Why would I go to school for two years and spend all that money for a credential that is only good for doing one thing, especially one thing I'm not sold on, that also tends to be stressful and low paying?  How many other people, who may be good teachers, get shut out because of the credentialing process?

Shopping: Shoes of Prey

Shoes of Prey is a company that makes custom shoes.  Their online interface for designing shoes is really fun to play with, even if you don't actually go through with buying the shoes.  I ran into this company through work, and then spent a bunch of time designing shoes.  I haven't bought any, because they are expensive... but maybe someday.