Great Books to Curl Up with this Fall

On Episode 21 of  Hang Your Hat I discussed some of the science behind creating a reading nook that will perfectly suit you, the reader, as well as some unscientific accessories that will serious seriously amp up the cosy factor.  You should totally check it out.

But no reading nook is complete without some great books.  Here are a few of my current favorites (not necessarily my all-time favorites, but the ones I am enjoying right now).

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The Bobiverse Book Series

Currently, this is my favorite new book series.  I absolutely LOVE it!  Bob is a self-replicating space probe (a Von Neumann probe if you want to be technical about it), that is on a mission to explore space and save humanity.  Throughout it all, he maintains a great sense of humor and a sense of wonder.  He is the kind of space probe that I could become friends with, and I have grown attached to him and his many copies while reading the 3 books in the series that have been published so far.

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The Dresden Files Series

The Dresden Files is an Urban Fantasy series featuring Harry Dresden, a wizard detective.  Jim Butcher, the author of this series is a New York Times best-selling author and it is easy to see why in this series.  He is able to seamlessly meld irreverent humor and fun with issues of life and death, love, family dysfunction, and faith.  I actually prefer the audiobook version of this series as read by James Marsters (you might remember his as Spike on Buffy the Vampire Slayer), to the physical book.  Marsters completely embodies the character of Dresden, which makes this series an engrossing listen.

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Anansi Boys

If you have not already made yourself acquainted with the work of Neil Gaiman, you should.  It will give you a completely new perspective on the world around you, and leave you wondering what you would find if you were able to scratch the surface of reality.  Anansi Boys can be thought of as a companion book to American Gods, as it was written along the same theme.  The Anansi Boys are the sons of the trickster god Anansi, and the book explores their life, origin, and family dynamics.  

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Sherlock Holmes as read by Stephen Fry

I love Sherlock Holmes.  I have multiple versions of the complete collection, and I enjoy them all, but this version read by Stephen Fry is my new favorite.  His reading draws me into the story in a way that I have never experienced before.  It is like I am there standing next to Holmes in his rooms at Baker Street watching him solve the mystery.  

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The Cormoran Strike series is about a disabled vet who works as a detective, his assistant Robin, and their outrageous cases.  Don't be fooled by the author's name, Robert Galbraith is a pseudonym for J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series, and while the Strike series isn's even in the same genre as Harry Potter her creativity, attention to detail and wide knowledge base still shines through like it did in Harry Potter.  In case you were thinking this is a good series to give to the kids after they finish Harry Potter, fair warning - this is NOT a kid's series.  This one is also being picked up as a TV series as well, so stay tuned.  I only hope it is as good as the books.

 

 

If you have a recommendation for a good book everyone should make time to read this fall, please let me know about it in the comments.  I am always on the hunt for new books, and I am sure other readers would appreciate the recommendation too.

Tallahassee / Big Bend Community Calendar

Around mid December last year in the midst of many family friendly holiday actives, I began lamenting that similar activities did not happen more often the rest of the year.   The Tallahassee / Big Bend Area of Florida where I live is a great place for College students and young adults without children to find fun things to do (there are numerous events, bars, clubs, and shows catering specifically to them), but if you are a young to middle age adult with babies or school age children it can be hard to find things to do.

I decided that my New Year's resolution would be to find more community activities that my family could participate it, and enjoy the community I live in more.  Then soon after Christmas I started feeling poorly and promptly forgot about my resolution.  Now 2 months, many doctors visits, and the miracles of modern medicine later, I am feeling much better, and am ready to start my resolution.  

I began by trying to find actives for my own family to participate in.  I wanted to find things that looked fun or educational, didn't cost an arm and a leg, and were not being held on a school night.

As I found things to do, I realized that other families were probably struggling with the same problem, and decided to post what I found online in the hope that other families could benefit as well.

All the events that I find will be posted on the new Community Calendar page linked to from the Gerwerken Crafts Main Page.  So far there are two events, The Saint Patrick's Day Parade and Festival being held this weekend, and the North Florida Veg Fest being held next weekend.  You can see additional details on the calendar page.

If you know of an event that you would like to see on the calendar please tell me about it, but keep and mind that I am not listing all community events, just those that fit my criteria.  So, what does it take for an event to be on the calendar?

  • It must be either an event it would be appropriate to take a school aged or younger child to, or a date night event.
  • It can't be held on a school night.
  • It needs to cost no more than $20 for my family of 4 to attend (I might occasionally bump that up to $50 if something really amazing is happening.
  • It has to be something I would take my family to (I know, this one is really subjective, but I hope you like my choices).

 

On an unrelated note, you might notice a few changes to the Gerwerken Crafts website now, and in the near future.  I was hoping to finish them all prior to the calendar going live, but decided that getting this weekend's event out was more important.

Playa is a lake again!

 We have a Lake Again!

We have a Lake Again!

About 2 months ago I told you how our neighborhood lake had dried up, leaving us with a playa, or dry lake bed.  The playa wasn't bad, the kids enjoyed playing on it, but we missed our lake.

Then about a week ago it started raining.  It rained for 3 days and 3 nights (thanks hurricane season), and at the end we had a lake again.

 Kayakers!

Kayakers!

Then as we were driving by on Saturday, I saw something I didn't think I would ever see in this lake, Kayakers!  I actually jumped out of the car to take these with my phone before they got too far away to see (sorry they are not the highest quality).  

So far the lake only has a couple of feet of water, but we should be getting some more water later this week.  Hopefully soon, the lake will be back to it's former glory.

End of Summer

At the beginning of the summer as the temperature rises, the native Floridians prepare to hibernate in their climate controlled dens for the summer.Knowing that going out in such high temperatures can cause severe burns, incite violence, and completely stop the brain from functioning, the native Floridians turn down the air conditioner, pull the blinds closed, and prepare to avoid the sun as much as possible for the next several months. 

As fall approaches the Floridan begins to stir.Since the temperature does not change in their climate controlled dens, it is not clear what lets the Floridan know that fall is approaching.Perhaps they can tell based on subtle signs, such as the the snow birds returning from their annual migration, or the proliferation of pumpkin spiced everything.What we do know, is that the Floridians emerge from their caves every year on labor day weekend.If that that time the Floridian begins to sweat, it is said that summer will last another 6 weeks, but if the Floridian doesn’t sweat, legend says that Fall will come early.
beginning of fall

 

We had a high of only 81 F today, and we are forecasted to have a day this week with a low in the 50s.  That is unprecedented.  I don't remember the last time it felt cool outside before October....ever.  It is amazing.  I'm actually sitting outside today writing this.  

My kids even willingly went outside to play today.  I think that may be the first time they have willingly gone outside to play without water involved since we moved into this house in April.   We decided to put up a temporary play area for them out of a sun sail and table and chairs to encourage them to go out a bit more, and so far it is working!

We originally got the sun sail from Ikea to block out the horrible light of the day star, but began to melt during our original attempt to put it up, so it has been in the hall closet ever since.  It made a great little lean to type structure for the kids to play under.  

If you have any suggestions for outdoor activities that won't cost an arm and a leg, that big kids would like, please leave a note in the comments.  I would love to hear your suggestions!

The Power of Less - Stash

A crafter's stash consists of the materials required to engage in that craft. It may consist of yarn, fabric, paint, beads, bits of metal, or anything else required to engage in the craft. I would venture to guess that all crafters have some stash whether it is boxes and bag full of materials that would last a lifetime, or only enough for the next project. I would also guess that, given enough time, crafters will experience the inexplicable phenomenon of their stash growing of it's own accord. Given the number of crafts that I engage in, and the amount of time I have been crafting, my stash is pretty small; however, the amount of space allocated to my stash in my tiny house is even smaller. After cleaning up the working area of my little craft studio last week, and putting away all of the pieces of my stash that had been left out, I realized that the cabinet in which my stash is stored needed a good de-cluttering too.

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Here is the before and after! Wow, look at the difference! What is the secret to my success? Bags that can fit 3 blanket into the space of one, baskets whose interior dimensions are greater than their exterior dimensions, or hiding everything under the bed? No! I also didn't spend any money on clever organizational gizmos, or new baskets, or magical vacuum bags. In fact, I didn't spend any money at all. So how did I do it?

I got rid of stuff. A lot of stuff. 3 garbage bags full of stuff. I mercilessly purged all of those items I did not love, or could not think of a purpose for. The small bits of fabric, too small to even make a napkin, suffered the worse. I put them all in a pile, and told my kids to give me those that they would like doll clothes made from (the only thing I routinely use small pieces of fabric for). The rest went in the trash (sorry quilters).

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My left over bits of yarn went in a basket my kids can reach so they can access them. They will now be easily accessed for kids projects, wrapping and tying things, and knitting experiments.

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The left over bits of fabric, and squares large enough for napkins (but not much else) are now in a drawer of their own.

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And my interfacing, stuffing, and dye have their own space now too.

I have to admit that I was scared to get rid of my stash at first. After all, it could be used to make something. And I love to make things. But now that it is over I feel a huge sense of relief. I am now left with those things I actually WANT to make into something, and I no longer have an insurmountable mountain of stuff bearing down on me waiting to be worked on.

I encourage all of you to turn a critical eye on your stash, be it big or small, and cut out the chaff. I think you will be glad once you have done it.

The Power of Less - Craft Studio

I have been reducing the clutter in my house, and sharing the results with you in my power of less series. I will finish off national craft month, with crafty decluttering.

For me, having no space to craft is the most discouraging barricade to crafting. When my craft "studio" is a mess, nothing gets done until the clutter is cleared.

This decluttering was simply reestablishing my pre existing organizational system, rather than an overhaul of that system. I'm pretty happy with the results.

The Power of Less - Spice Cabinet

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In keeping with the theme of un-cluttering my clean on the outside, awful on the inside kitchen, this past weekend I tackled my spice cabinet.

Thing 1 and I started by taking everything out, including the shelves. We washed everything, even the spice bottles themselves. Then we started sorting. We threw out old spices, and merged duplicates. They were grouped by their type and use. The result was far less clutter, and easy access to the most used bottles.

Time: About 2 hours. Cost: $0

The Power of Less - Refrigerator

I have heard before that the clutter in your fridge is predictive of the clutter in your home. If that is the case, then my home was headed for a mess. While I regularly throw out old leftovers or spoiled veggies, I deep clean my fridge only rarely. This time it was past due for a good scrubbing. It was gross!

In this de-cluttering, I removed everything that could be removed. Everything was scrubbed with soap and water. Then only what was still in date and regularly used was returned to the fridge. Hopefully I'll get to the freezer soon too.

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Chicken Coop

We used to let our chickens free range, but then last year nearly all of them were killed by predators. After that we didn't feel comfortable letting the remaining chickens roam the yard, and we cooped them. They hated it. Our coop had been designed with free range chickens in mind. It was really only set up to house the chickens at night or during very bad weather. Chickens that are free to roam most of the time really don't have need of a lot of space inside the coop. When it became necessary to coop our chickens nearly all of the time, it quickly became apparent that our coop was not up to the task.

My Father in Law, who is very good at thinking outside the box (or coop), come up with the solution, and here is the results.

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He enclosed a portion of the exiting poll barn using a combination of chicken wire, metal siding, and salvaged doors and windows. He also connected a 40 foot by 3 foot run to the side accessible by chicken sized sliding door. Since the barn was already wired and plumbed, he also added a fan and heat lamp that can be turned on as needed, and an automatic waterer.

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My favorite part is the people sized double entry doors, which allow easy access to the coop, but not easy escape.

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Here are a few more pics of the cool new coop.

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The Power of Less - Entry Way Storage

20130128-133658.jpg Today's post is a bit different than those earlier in the week, in which I simply removed things from a space. Today, I have repurposed a pre existing object to better fit the needs of my family.

This armoire started as a cheap, prefab computer hutch, about 10 years ago. I honestly never though it would last this long but it has. Two or three years ago I decided to make it beautiful again, and transformed it into the green and black beauty you see today. Then I promptly stuffed it full of linens and let is sit next to my front door.

Now the linens are gone, regulated to another closet, the trash, or a charity, and in their place, are the odds and ins that are necessary, and typically in the way.

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As a result of this little project, I was also able to clean out the junk drawer in my kitchen. It had previously held the flashlights, candles, batteries, and light bulbs and was stuffed to the gills. Now I can get to these items much more easily, and my Tupperware has a place to stay.

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The Power of Less - Entry Way

This weekend I cleaned and organized the entry to my house, not by buying lots of little boxes and bins to put all of my stuff, or a new expensive piece of furniture that housed everything perfectly, but by getting rid of things. This week I will show you how cleaning and removing "stuff" alone can transform a space. We will start today with the front door.

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The debris was thrown in the trash, the pots were emptied of their contents and stored with the rest of the pots. My father in law and daughter used a at home version of a pressure washer to clean the side of the house and side walk. Total cost, $0, 1 hour.

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Deculttering Kitchen Drawers

20130123-220612.jpgI like empty surfaces. Empty to the point of barren minimalism. They are free from visual clutter and easy to clean. So, if you were to come to my house on a good day, my kitchen counters would look something like this;

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20130123-093118.jpg Terribly cluttered kitchen drawers!

I couldn't take it anymore. Let the culling begin!

I started by taking everything out of the drawers and placing it on the countertop, grouping like with like the best I could. This is the contents of only two drawers;

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There were 3 can openers, 5 basting brushes, 4 ladles, 2 whisks, at least 8 mixing spoons, and a large assortment of mismatched silverware, and a toothbrush, to name but a few. I culled the trash, the duplicates, and the unused. When I was done, this is what did not renter the drawers;

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I'm pretty happy with the results.

Jewelry Organization

Since I started working full time, the clothing I wear on a regular basis has changed quite a bit. While at home I could spend the day in yoga pants and free of makeup, but at work it is different. At work I need to look somewhat professional. I need to wear clothes that fit, and makeup, and accessories. Dressing professionally, especially accessorizing, does not come naturally to me. Jewelry is especially difficult for me. As I have struggled to find an accessory that matched my outfit every morning, I realized that trying to dig through a jumble of jewelry wasn't really helping me, and I began searching for a better way - that also didn't cost an arm and a leg.

Jewelry boxes were out since I don't have enough counter space to house one. I needed something that utilized wall space. I found several wall mounted jewelry armoires that were lovely, but they were also pricy. So instead, I took my inspiration from some of the DIY versions I spotted on Pinterest. The problem with most of these was the lack of storage for stud type earrings. So I improvised. Here is the result;

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To make it, I used a cork board that I already had, and had already painted blue, some push pins, a small embroidery hoop, cheese cloth, and some ribbon. Since I already had everything on hand, the cost was $0. Using a ruler I spaced the push pins 1 inch from the sides of the frame, and 1 inch apart.

20130123-091215.jpg I placed several layers of cheese cloth in the embroidery hoop, and cut off the excess. Then I mounted the hoop to the board with a length of ribbon and some pins, which allowed the back to be easily accessed.

I am pretty happy with the result. It easily holds my meager jewelry collection, and keeps it easily accessible when I need it.

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Routine

20130115-125840.jpg (A lady bug out during lunch today.)

Yesterday was Fire Beard's first day back at school. I was home sick. I know I probably had one of the many stomach bugs that seem to be going around, but the thought of him away from home for yet another semester, also makes me feel ill.

Today I am back to my normal, husband-less routine, and I thought I would share it with you. Unlike most craft bloggers I currently work full time away from the house, like many of you probably do. While my routine probably isn't very different from anyone else's , I think my routine might give those of you who are trying to squeeze in crafting time some insight into how I do it.

A typical work day;

5:30 am - My alarm goes off, trying to get me to work out. I used to work out every other morning, and will probably start back soon. 6:00 am - I finally drag myself out of bed. My clothes are already laid out, ironed and ready to go from the night before. By the time I finish getting dressed, hair and make up, my coffee (also set up the night before) is finished brewing. This is also about the time my kids get up and start their chores, feeding the pets. Breakfast generally consists of a baked egg,oatmeal, or bagel. A load of laundry and/or dishes is changed out, then the kids are snuggled a bit before their grandma comes to get them from next door. 7:15 I grab my lunch (also made the night before), coffee, and bag, then I'm out the door. 8:00 Work 12:00 My lunch time varies, but it's generally around noon. I usually head off to my favorite shady picnic table and eat, read, knit, or blog. I find this time of day very therapeutic. 1:00 Back to work 5:00 My nearly 1 hour commute begins. I know it could be worse, but I live in a fairly small town. 6:00 Home, dinner, homework, time with the kids. 7:00 The bedtime routine begins. The kids clean up after themselves, take showers, get dressed, and brush teeth. While the oldest is in the shower I get ready for the next day, making my lunch, ironing clothes, and making my coffee. Then bedtime stories, and prayers. 8:30 The kids are asleep. I finish cleaning what needs to be cleaned (generally not too much since I try to clean as I go), then it's my time. I generally pick my craft, or lack of craft by the mood I'm in. Whatever sewing project is in progress if I'm feeling industrious, knitting or spinning if I need to relax, or nothing if I'm really exhausted. I try to have a project ready to pick up and go. 10:30 Bedtime.

Culling Christmas

Yesterday was the 12th and final day of Christmas, and the day I took down my christmas decorations. To me, nothing symbolizes the end of the holiday season, and the start of the new year quite like taking down the Christmas decorations. It feels like wiping the slate clean, beginning anew, and a great time to initiate new and better habits. While I, like many people, want to eat healthy and exercise more in 2013, what I want to do more than anything else is reduce the physical and mental clutter in my life. I started this year, by eliminating some of the clutter in my christmas decor.

20130107-131435.jpg When my husband and I first got married we had virtually no christmas decorations. I made some bows for the doors, and bought a box of miniature ball shaped christmas ornaments for our 1 foot tall tree. Our collection of Christmas decorations has grown since then, and on this, our 8th married christmas, I lugged out of the garage 4 large storage containers of decorations, 1 small storage container of christmas decorations, a wreath box, and 2 small artificial christmas trees (a larger artificial tree stayed in the garage).

A few years ago I began to realize that not all of the decorations came out of all of the boxes every year, so I started removing those that were never used from our collection. The problem is that we continued to receive more decorations every year, and the net result was still addition to the collection, rather than subtraction. This year I was far more radical in my culling and I am proud to say that 1 large store box, 1 small storage box, and a large artificial christmas tree will not be making their way back into my garage this year!

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This is how I did it; First I eliminated all of those decorations that were never used, and I didn't really care for. These were often those decorations given to me at the beginning of my marriage by friends or relatives that knew I had few christmas decorations. These were generally cast offs from their own collections, given to help me start my own.

Next, I eliminated those decorations that I liked, but were not used either because they didn't match the rest of my decor, or I never had occasion to use them. For instance, my family rarely drinks tea, so a tea pot shaped like a gingerbread house, while adorable, was not a useful part of my collection.

Next, I eliminated those decorations that were unused, but had been hanging around since childhood. These were some of the ornaments I had made in elementary school that were not special, and I had no attachment to, they were simply there, because they had always been there.

Last, I took a hard look at the remaining decorations. Everything that didn't make me smile or feel warm and fuzzy inside, Everything that didn't have meaning and purpose, was then eliminated.

I was left boxes full of objects that I have for a reason, they are special, meaningful, useful, and beautiful, and I know I will be happy to see the contents of these boxes next year!

The Newest Babies

Less than a month ago tragedy struck. My sister in law's dog escaped its confinement and killed 3 of our chickens. They were our sweetest, most trusting, and best laying hens, and also my children's favorites (of course). We decided to do what we could to help them live on. Fire beard bought an incubator, gathered 12 of their eggs, and we crossed our fingers.

About 21 days later we had 7 new babies.

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The Big Girls

After yesterday's pic of the babies in their brooder box, I thought I would share a pic of the big girls (and boy) in their coop. As you can probably tell, the girl's coop, does not look like a standard coop.  For one thing, it is 4 feet off of the ground, and for another, it is almost completely open.  There is a rhyme in our reason however.  We live in Florida, where it is very hot and very humid most of the year.  Chickens tend to dislike very hot and moist environments, and suffer in those conditions.  As a result, we decided to make a coop that would allow for maximum air flow reducing both heat and humidity.  The reason the coop is 4 feet off the ground is that we have several large predators in the area, such a coyotes.  We needed to keep the chickens far off the ground in their open coop.  You may have also noticed that there does not appear to be a way for the chickens to get in to or out of the coop.  Rest assured there is a way for them to come and go.  The rope going from floor to ceiling in the coop is attached to a retractable ramp that extends down during the day, and is pulled up at night, and becomes part of the floor of the coop.

The coop does have a few problems that we hope to correct this year.  The biggest problem is that wind driven rain can easily infiltrate the coop, soaking the bedding material.  We hope to add some sort of shutter that can be closed to protect against driven rain.  We are also planning to enclose the bottom of the coop, so they have more room when they have to stay inside during the day.

The girls that were our babies just moved into the big coop, and are adjusting to their new surroundings.  I promise there are several water bottles from them to pick from, but they all like this one.

Martha (an Americana named after Martha Washington), is having the hardest time adjusting - some of the big girls can be bullies.  She gets plenty of cuddles to make up for it though.

Our Newest Family Members

On Easter Sunday, the Easter bunny left more than just eggs in our yard, he also left two adorable baby chicks.  The kids found them in a basket with a note from the Easter bunny, asking the kids to give his chicks a good home.

They are growing faster than any other chicks we have had, perhaps because there are only two chicks sharing feed.  Above is a pics on the little girls in their brooder box (basically a wooden box with a heat lamp on top) yesterday, already looking pretty grown up.

As you can see, they are very well loved.