Summer Vacation Drawstring Activity Bags

A few years ago the Optometrist and I met up with out of state friends who were passing through the area en route to Texas for a summer beach vacation, which I discussed in this blog post. I enjoyed making little drawstring backpacks for their three young girls, wherein I tucked activity pads for good measure.

This week our 7 year old nephew and 4 year old niece are journeying with their parents to their first beach vacation in South Carolina.

I’m still a super-duper novice seamstress, but I’m gaining confidence in using my Singer Classic sewing machine and sewing in (somewhat of) a straight line.  The most time consuming, thus frustrating, part of a project is cutting out fabric to uniform, consistent sizes. I think it’s time I invest in a larger cutting mat and sharper rotary cutting tool…

I used this helpful YouTube video from the Crafti Gemini called “How to Make a T-Shirt Drawstring Backpack for Kids” in her London 2012 Olympics series as my inspiration, but used stiffer material rather than jersey cotton.

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Our niece loves My Little Pony, so I was excited I still had some leftover material to create hers. I omitted adding initials on the outside like I did before, but followed the 12.5″ size dimensions described in the tutorial, lined it with white muslin for a little extra stability, and added a little sewn pocket to the inside lining.

Meanwhile, her big brother just finished 1st grade, so he needed something more “grown up.” When at Walmart (the only option for purchasing fabric in our town), we saw lots of options our nephew would have liked: Star Wars, Batman, etc., but opted for the slightly faded Marvel comicbook fabric. His is closer to 15″ (it’s wider than it is tall, but I didn’t take exact final measurements), also reinforced with white muslin, and a internal pocket on which I stitched his initials. Once I added this small element, it inspired me to give more attention to other details, so I was very pleased with the end result and hope it will be sturdy for him to enjoy!

Inside each are a little surprise – a coloring postcard for Sweet Pea and Star Wars: The Force Awakens stickers for Little Dude.

Because, after all, what are aunts good for if not to send a care package for little ones to collect beach vacation treasures in drawstring activity bags?

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1.) Literally taking time to stop and smell the roses.

2.) Neighborhood honeysuckle fragrantly in bloom.

3.) A cool morning walk.

4.) The privilege of having both my parents alive, still married, and them singing Happy Birthday to me over the phone.

5.) New summer reading lists.

6.) My soul awakening with the Psalms.

7.) Shiny silver hoop earrings.

8.) Re-watching a favorite, classic Disney movie on Netflix.

9.) Casting on a new hat.

10.) Baths with relaxing bath salts.

11.) Caring for the health of my fingernails.

12.) Eating the best hummus in town.

13.) Sharing a healthy smoothie with my husband.

14.) Running into dear friends downtown.

15.) Having our University president tell me “Happy birthday! How does it feel to be 24?”

16.) An inspiring podcast.

17.) The availability of taking a personal day from work.

18.) Restorative afternoon naps with Sylvester curled up by my legs.

19.) Sweet texts from dear friends out of state.

20.) Thoughtful cards from family and friends across the miles.

21.) Sherlock mysteries.

22.) Homemade birthday sushi made for me by my husband.

23.) La La Land piano score with hints of Debussy.

24.) Fancy, Signature Needles engraved with my name.

25.) An unexpected children’s book about knitting.

26.) Anticipating a care package from my BFF.

27.) New-to-me poetry.

28.) Adventuring through Middle Earth for the first time.

29.) Keeping score at a minor league baseball game, a.k.a. the most fun I’ve gotten out of $1.00 in a long time.

30.) Joyful, colorful, loud fireworks.

31.) Walking through well manicured gardens reminiscent of Narnia.

32.) Thoughtful and loving in-laws.

33.) A playful cat before nighttime snuggles.

34.) Clean drinking water that flows out of the faucet.

35.) Being good to my body & my body being good to me in return.

36.) The quietude of home and the peacefulness of bedtime.

May Memorization

I’m supremely thankful for the time I invested studying and memorizing scripture from the New Testament books of Hebrews and Matthew (among others) during my teenage years through the Church of the Nazarene Youth Bible Quizzing program.

Since those years I have consistently chosen to keep Bible reading a part of my daily schedule, in some way or form, but haven’t been as diligent about dedicating myself to meditating upon and memorizing specific passages of scripture.

With the start of May, and the spring semester drawing to a close this weekend, it will officially be “summer” in my mind. Last week I, once more, came across Psalm 103 as the passage for the day during my read-the-Bible-in-a-year plan. As I listened to it being narrated through my Bible app, I found myself sighing with peace and thought back to other specific points in time when this same passage also came alive (Hebrews 4:12) to me.

Therefore, I’m endeavoring to memorize the 22 verses of Psalm 103 throughout May, June, and July.  That’s about seven verses a month, where I can read and re-read one a day – totally do-able!

Feel free to share any useful memorization tips & tricks and help hold me accountable, will you?

Psalm 103
English Standard Version (ESV)

Bless the Lord, O My Soul

Of David.

103 Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and all that is within me,
    bless his holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
    who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
    who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The Lord works righteousness
    and justice for all who are oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses,
    his acts to the people of Israel.
The Lord is merciful and gracious,
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide,
    nor will he keep his anger forever.
10 He does not deal with us according to our sins,
    nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
    so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
13 As a father shows compassion to his children,
    so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
14 For he knows our frame;[a]
    he remembers that we are dust.

15 As for man, his days are like grass;
    he flourishes like a flower of the field;
16 for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
    and its place knows it no more.
17 But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him,
    and his righteousness to children’s children,
18 to those who keep his covenant
    and remember to do his commandments.
19 The Lord has established his throne in the heavens,
    and his kingdom rules over all.

20 Bless the Lord, O you his angels,
    you mighty ones who do his word,
    obeying the voice of his word!
21 Bless the Lord, all his hosts,
    his ministers, who do his will!
22 Bless the Lord, all his works,
    in all places of his dominion.
Bless the Lord, O my soul!

Online source: BibleGateway.com

Read: April 2017

TalkingFast

Talking as Fast as I Can by Lauren Graham

For fans of Gilmore Girls and Parenthood (but especially Gilmore Girls), Graham’s autobiography provides readers with stories of her childhood, education in becoming an actor, and personal insights and memories of filming  such beloved TV roles. This was a very quick read for me (<48 hours) since her writing style follows a “stream of consciousness” dialogue. If you’re a fan of GG, as I’ve been for years, this is a fun, lighthearted, pop-culture read!

Book read via: public library

love-story

Love Story by Karen Kingsbury

This continuation of the Baxter family series features a love story of more recent characters Cody Coleman & Andi Ellison, plus takes a look back at how it all began with John and Elizabeth Baxter. Love Story will be released on June 6, so look for an in-depth book review closer to that time!

My thanks to Edelweiss for this digital ARC!

Cruelest Month
The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny

Reading The Cruelest Month, third in the Chief Inspector Gamache series, the week of Easter was fortuitous since the book takes place at the exact same time! However, there’s nothing holy about the murder that takes place in Three Pines after someone is literally scared-to-death after a seance. Or is there more to this death than meets the eye?

It took me a while to personally connect with this story compared to the first two books in the series, but once the characters are established and Gamache returns to Three Pines to investigate, my interest was definitely piqued!

For new readers of Penny’s “Gamache” series, I recommend reading these in order for ease of recurring character and plot development continuity.

Book read via: public library

Cover of The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
The Crossover
by Kwame Alexander

This award-winning middle grade story is told in free verse poetry and was a lightning fast read (literally a few hours at the most on a Friday afternoon). Yes, this is a book about a young man who loves playing basketball, but interwoven is a beautifully supportive family dynamic where the words “crossover” come to mean more than just a way of handling the ball.

A well-deserved recipient of the 2015 Newbery Medal and a 2015 Coretta Scott King Honor Award that I should have read two years ago!

Book read via: youth collection from my academic library

hitchhiker
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
by Douglas Adams

The Optometrist and I picked up a hardback copy of The Hitchhiker’s Guide at Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle several summers ago, which is a fun memory! It’s not very lengthy and we enjoyed reading it aloud together, along with a little help from the audio version checked out from the public library, excellently narrated by Stephen Fry.

It’s funny, I’ve knit three Hitchhiker shawls over the past few years and watched the movie years ago, but honestly couldn’t remember anything substantial about the plot, so reading the original inspiration was a fun experience to tie everything together!

Book read via: home library

The Silver Chair
The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis

Narnia is always a magical and inviting place to visit, no matter how old you are. My parents gifted me with a paperback set (exact copy of the cover above) for Christmas when I was ~8 years old and I would unequivocally say The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is probably one of my all-time favorite books.

And yet, I haven’t ever finished reading the entire Narnia series. Well, I can’t say that’s entirely true because my 5th grade teacher read the entire series aloud to us throughout that school year upon returning to our classroom after recess each afternoon. And I also remember loving the BBC movie version as a young girl – especially marveling at how they made Puddleglum’s hands and feet webbed!

I’m now just one book away (The Last Battle) from finally reading all seven Narnia books!

Book read via: home library

hope-heals
Hope Heals 
by Jay and Katherine Wolf

If you haven’t heard the testimony of Jay and Katherine Wolf before, it’s one that will forever leave an impression on your heart of what God’s faithfulness looks like in the midst of unknowable human suffering. Their autobiography centers around the event that forever changed their lives: Katherine having a massive stroke at the age of 26. Their marriage is one that is covered with God’s grace and a real-life inspirational example of “loving one another in sickness and in health.”

Or if you’re interested in watching and hearing more about their story, check out this 20 minute documentary on YouTube.

Book read via: my academic library InterLibrary Loan (ILL)

SleepingGiants

Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Nuevel

Last summer I signed up for a 3 month subscription to the Book of the Month club and this was my personal selection for July.  The opening premise of “a little girl is riding her bike and inadvertently falls into a pit that contains a giant metal hand” might sound a little bizarre – it did to me – but I’m glad I gave it a chance! This sci-fi scenario is grounded in believable ensuing possibilities: research motivations, military involvement, linguistic breakthroughs, and developing love interests.

After finishing The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy with The Optometrist I was excited to start another sci-fi adventure with him. And now we can look forward to reading book two of the Themis files, Waking Gods, which was released at the beginning of April and the digital ARC awaits us on my Kindle!

What I’m learning, as a relative new comer to sci-fi, is that the genre is much more approachable than I once believed. Like a lot of other genres: this book was fun, well written, kept me wanting to know what would happen next, and contained characters for whom I developed affection.

Book read via: personal copy

Thelastpoliceman_BenHWinters_0

The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters

John Green’s (The Fault in Our Stars) endorsement of this series immediately piqued my interest, “[The] weird, beautiful, unapologetically apocalyptic Last Policeman trilogy is one of my favorite mystery series.”

A brief scenario of this apocalyptic mystery: an asteroid is headed for Earth and will make impact in the next 6 months, so what should Detective Hank Palace do when he discovers a suicide is actually murder?

As a reader, I’m excited all three books in the trilogy have been published so I don’t have to wait to read books 2 and 3!

Book read via: public library

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May brings the end of the school year and the kick-off for summer reading! Books from series like the Dresden Files, Narnia, The Penderwicks, Gamache, and Alaskan Courage are on my short list for right now!

Weekly Reader

The title of this blog post series pays homage to the beloved childhood informational news bulletin, Weekly Reader, as I highlight favorite finds from around the web.
weeklyreader

Knitting

Dreamer yarn bomb in Tuscon (RedHeart – February 8, 2017)
Yarn bomber and designer Stephen Duneier decorates Tuscon’s children’s hospital.

Edu-tainment

Kate McKinnon Will Voice Ms. Frizzle in Netflix’s “Magic School Bus” Reboot by Cole Delbyck (Huffington Post – February 8, 2017)
Just about anything Kate McKinnon does makes me laugh out loud, and while I was a little too old for the original Magic School Bus series years ago, I may not be too old to appreciate this new version!

Music

Solmization from Encyclopaedia Britannica (accessed April 17, 2017)
In a recent conversation with a music-appreciating colleague, she asked me, “Do you know the history of where do, re, mi comes from?” As many years as I’ve studied music and solfege, I never knew where the actual syllables came from, but now I do!

Spiritual

8 Things Whole-Hearted Creative Women Do Differently by Emily P. Freeman (March 22, 2017, blog post)
I’ve read this quietly, read this aloud, printed a copy for myself to read at work, and sent a copy to a friend. Resounding YES.

The Blessing in the Ashes by Katie Leigh (April 3, 2017, blog post)
When searching for Holy Week blog posts in WordPress, I came across Katie’s beautifully written entry about Lent with a parallel to Harry Potter. I’ve now subscribed to her blog and can’t get enough of her writing about spiritual practices in every day life.

 

What encouraging, insightful, or fun information have you read this week?

 

Saving My Life: Spring Edition

As per the phrase by Barbara Brown Taylor, this is a pictorial look at the things saving my life throughout spring.

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Working on my Find Your Fade shawl (now about 85% completed!) at our friends’ during a recent music rehearsal. Their home sits near the Illinois River and is as tranquil as it looks.


A house in our neighborhood usually has their blooming dogwood tree decorated with plastic Easter eggs and this year was no exception. Now that the blooms and Easter have both been celebrated, I still feel myself smiling as I drive past this uplifting tree.


When visiting Seattle a few summers ago, my main souvenir was purchasing this Longchamp purse at the flagship Nordstrom store downtown. The salesman said many ladies in Seattle carry them since they are weather resistant, so loading up my bag with all my earthly possessions I need for the day to carry during the spring rainy season in the Ozarks has been a lifesaver.


After finishing Art of the Pie by Kate McDermott last month, I was inspired to bake a (low sugar) classic apple pie. It had been years since I last baked a pie from scratch, so I was pleased with how well both the crust and filling turned out! And what better time to do so than for Easter Sunday lunch, where we hosted our favorite octogenarian friend for ham, homemade potato casserole, asparagus, and bakery rolls after church.


The line from On the Road Again by Willie Nelson, “The life I love is making music with my friends,” sums up this photo perfectly.  Our church family, namely our praise team family, means the world to The Optometrist and me and it saddens us greatly that one of our dear friends is soon moving away. In light of his forthcoming departure, snapping this photo of our people before a recent Sunday morning late service was a moment I wanted to capture for ever and always.

What are things saving your life this spring?

Read: March 2017

What wonderful March reads! And I didn’t realize until a few days ago that all of this month’s books were written by women authors. Very appropriate given the fact that March is Women’s History Month!

StillLife

Still Life by Louise Penny

First in the Chief Inspector Gamache series, Still Life takes place in the cozy, fictitious hamlet of Three Pines in Quebec, Canada. An unexpected death has occurred where Gamache and his team have to determine if this death was an accident or murder.

I’ve heard such rave reviews about this series from Anne Bogel and various guests on the What Should I Read Next podcast and am pleased to say the hype did not prove disappointing at all! I’ve already requested the second book (in a series of 13), A Fatal Grace, from the public library and am excited to continue in the series!

Book read via: public library

hpcs

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling 

In January The Optometrist and I read The Sorcerer’s Stone aloud together and have continued the journey through book two this month. As I mentioned in that month’s post, the illustrations by Jim Kay are stunning and evocative, but now we have to wait until this fall for The Prisoner of Azkaban (my favorite HP book). In the mean time, maybe we’ll pick up some of the (American) audio books narrated by Jim Dale. (I’ve listened to several in years past, in which his voice shifts were subtle but the character changes were instantly recognizable.)

Book read: home library

AfterYou

After You by Jojo Moyes

I first read Me Before You last February and found the story compelling and memorable. (If I can remember character and plot details a year later when reading a sequel, that’s a good sign…but this doesn’t always happen!)

We are reintroduced to Louisa, the female main character in Me Before You, as she navigates her life amid loss, grief, and guilt. After an accident impacts her own health, an unexpected teenager enters her life, as does a potential love interest, and she is forced to examine her motives and heart’s truest desires.

Book read via: public library

maybe-in-another-life

Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid

I feel like this came across my radar also thanks to Modern Mrs. Darcy, possibly from a Kindle e-book alert (?), but checked it out from my public library instead. The overarching theme of a “multiverse” caught my attention, after having loved Dark Matter by Blake Crouch so much. Reid’s take on this idea accompanied me during our Spring Break travels.

Our protagonist Hannah returns to her hometown of Los Angeles after several years living elsewhere around the country, and the night after she returns home a group of her high school friends, including her ex-boyfriend, meet to catch up. Does she stay to chat with him, or leave with her best friend? From here the story splits, allowing the reader to imagine both “what ifs” rather than just one happily-ever-after.

Book read via: public library

FatalGrace

A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny

After a little spring break trip to Branson, this library book awaited my return home. I’ve quickly developed such a strong sense of place for Three Pines and the cast of eclectic characters who repeated from Still Life (plus a few new ones).

In addition to Chief Inspector Gamache returning to Three Pines to solve another murder, there’s some treachery taking place between him and one (or more) of his officers, so I can’t wait to see how (or if) this resolves in book three, The Cruelest Month!

Book read via: public library

Malala

I am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb

I’ve owned a copy of I am Malala for several years and in light of March being Women’s History Month, felt it appropriate to finally read it. As soon as I finished, my husband asked me what I thought and the first word that came to my mind was “important.” The work that she has championed for children’s/girls’ rights to receive an education before the shooting was important and remains even more so even now. What a remarkable young woman she is.

Ms. Yousafzai provides great historical perspective of her home country of Pakistan, what it was like to live through the rise of the Taliban, a glimpse into her family’s progressive and encouraging counter-cultural influence on her life, as well details surrounding the act of violence perpetrated against her, and her difficult but triumphant recovery.

Watch her (26 minute) Nobel Peace Prize Speech here.

Book read via: home library

ArtofthePie
Art of the Pie: A Practical Guide to Homemade Crusts, Fillings and Life 
by Kate McDermott

When logging into my public library’s e-book (Overdrive) system last week, this contemporary guide to pie baking was listed and I just couldn’t pass it up! Most of the book is comprised of delicious-sounding crust and filling recipes, but there are some sweet narratives about the author’s life and experiences as a pie baker. I’ve been on a low-sugar diet for a few years now, so pies have been off limits for me, but after reading how little sugar it takes to sweeten a naturally sweet fruit pie (like apple), I’m excited about using a sugar substitute and work on my pie baking skills this spring and summer!

Since I read it on my Kindle, I didn’t have a full appreciation for the pictures since they were in black & white, but this is one that I just might look for in print!

Book read via: public library Overdrive
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Books in progress for April include a sci-fi classic, more Gamache, and maybe even and a soon-to-be-released love story!