Friday, September 30, 2016

September Titles (2016)

checking out my new amazon treat! 

Last month and this month were good to me in the book department. My time of watching TV voraciously (catching up with my 3 favorite shows once they're on netflix, and watching all of Parenthood in one summer) is over and I am back turning to books in every spare moment. Surprisingly, this month went to a lot of history all across Canada. Funny how one can find the right books at the right time. Lukka will be learning all about BC history this year in (home)school, so reading a few of these books were so helpful even from a homeschooling perspective, let alone enjoyable to read on their own. Here's my September reads:

*Vancouver Island Scoundrels, Eccentrics, and Originals by Stephen Ruttan - This quirky little book was one I had seen while on vacation on Vancouver Island and it seemed like a fun little history lesson, complete with photos, odd stories, and few pages (170+). I picked it up at our library and I thought it was so interesting. I know very little of the history of British Columbia, and this certainly was an entertaining intro. The stories were well-written and seeing the old pictures of people and places helped tremendously to add character and setting. I liked it so well I thought I'd write to the author and tell him we're planning on reading a bit of it aloud in our homeschool. This year Lukka has to learn about BC's history, and a number of these stories are a perfect fit.

*In This Together: Fifteen Stories of Truth & Reconciliation edited by Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail - I really learned a lot from this anthology of essays from authors (both native and non-native) across Canada retelling experiences involving First Nations issues and people. Just this year in BC the ministry of education has begun to include much more First Nations curriculum/topics in every grade, signaling good things for reconciliation between First Nations people groups and the general population who may or may not know of the horrific pasts of many tribes. Of course, in thinking of my own country, I see Canada light-years ahead. Each essay in this book had a different tone, conflict, and theme and through all of those different sets of eyes I gained a lot of knowledge. I enjoyed it!

*Bent Hope by Tim Huff - This book is a collection of Toronto's street kids' stories told by the man who ministered to them. They are raw, tragic, and at times, horrifying, but sitting at the end of each chapter is a deep sincere love by the author that one day, these kids would know the love God has for them. It's both deeply troubling and deeply hopeful. A book like this is what needs to be shared in youth groups, and older children's lives along with frank discussions on things like abuse, cyclical problems like mental illness, financial and spiritual poverty, and solutions that honor the God who loves the 1 out of the 99 so much He goes looking for them. Thankful a friend of mine let me borrow this book, as I don't know I would have come across it otherwise.

*Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist - This is a book full of short essays that mostly center on the themes of peace, grace, slowing down life, and margin. I appreciated the encouragement Niequist offers but didn't find anything new or mind-blowing. Mostly, this is a quiet book that helps give you permission to do what you want with your life. If you're a woman, you may feel like you need permission to take care of yourself without feeling guilty. Shauna is trying to give you back that power. Though this is a quick read, and a gentle book, I didn't find it very fluid, and sometimes the sections didn't  feel that different, even though there were 5 or 6 of them. This could be a really lovely book for some, but it was a shoulder-shrugger for me.

*I Know How She Does It by Laura Vanderkam - In this book, Vanderkam takes her 168 Hours log idea, presents it to high-earning women (over $100K/year), and maps out how they spend their time, and how they really do have it all, it just looks different than what you'd think. I sort of take issue with this idea because although I'm high on efficiency and productivity, I need a lot of down-time to rejuvenate, and I just didn't see much margin in these lives, though they are in powerful or interesting careers and are able to spend quality time with their kids. I hope at some point she decides to study women that feel more aligned to the average-"jo", those who make much less, single mothers, women who have children who have special needs, etc. This book feels too much like a niche book. A small, riche, non-margin niche. I appreciate what she's trying to do-to empower women to go for the big jobs AND the family, but honestly? It made me tired FOR these women. I'll take my simple life, one-income, and plenty of whitespace. I hate to say I think this book backfired for me.

Monday, September 12, 2016

16 in 2016: More Plants!

 snapped out front of Rook & Rose, in Victoria

Early every year I love to make a goal list that I can slowly work through as opportunities present themselves. Sometimes they're big, sometimes small, and this one was home-centered: get more greenery in for our small basement suite. My sister-in-law does plants so well, and that has inspired me to get a few more plants to spruce up the place {see what I did there?}.  Stefan has liked this goal because he would have a house full of green if our budget allowed it!

 My ZZ plant and broad leaf succulent from R&R

When I went to Victoria with my friend Emily, we found this beautiful plant boutique (is that even a thing?!) and I bought two beautiful plants that were extremely well priced, and had a healthy gloss to them. The two plants above are from Rook & Rose, and if you're ever in Victoria and you have plant goals, go see them. They had an air plant that was nearly $100 (it was huge, most are quite small) and it was over 62 years old! I could have easily spent a chunk of my cash in that store, but had to make it out with just one bag since we were walking all over Victoria for the day. 

 3 out of these 4 from IKEA (African violent from friend)

This last photo is the spot where the majority of my plants are-on one of our brightest window ledges. The tiny African violet is still blooming after at least 6 months. It goes through phases of no buds, to 10-12 flowers opening at once, and although I don't have a great container for it, I'm glad I kept this little gift from a friend instead of tossing it once it became really dry. 

The other three very different plants are all from IKEA and started out quite small. The broad leafed plant has actually dropped two large leaves and just keeps sprouting from the stem and they are getting darker with each new leaf that pops out. I'm sure this could become a large plant but without the space, I don't want to switch it into a bigger pot. 

The 'spikey' looking plant has grown a solid 6 inches in height (at least) in the last year. It loves the simple little pot because it continues to grow up and doesn't seem to need more space, which is perfect. The last is my favorite, and has grown out at least 6-8 inches, and is starting to trickle down the ledge with new vine sprouts everywhere. 

I often water one 'big' time per week, and if I think any of them are looking a bit 'weary' between watering, I'll drop an ice-cube in the top, a tip I got from Elise that really works!

Do you know the names of these last 3? Do you have a great hanging plant suggestion that doesn't need much natural sunlight? I'd love to hear it!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

16 in 2016: Get a Dog!

When we moved to Ft. Langley about 18 months ago, we notified the owners of our rental suite that we were interested in-at some point- getting a mid-sized dog. Thankfully (hallelujah!) they were okay with that, since the previous tenants had a large-breed dog. 

Another one of our 16 in 2016 goal list was to get a dog. This has been a looooong time in the making, and our kids are absolutely over the moon with their new pet dog, Copper.



When we were ready to get a dog, we had a few stipulations: we wanted to get a dog from a shelter (the pure-breds in this area are outrageously expensive, even for very common breeds), the kids had to show us they were responsible enough to help out with the chores like picking up poop, feeding, running around/exercise, and spending time training. The last thing we were waiting for was to get back from vacation, so we could have a solid 6 weeks of assimilating the dog into our home until we were back 'in the thick' of things with homeschooling, etc. These last few weeks of summer have been some of our kids' most memorable.


When we told the kids we were going to the Bellingham shelter after church one day we were explaining over and over that we were just looking, because we didn't have an interest in any of the dogs that were on their website. This guy, however, wasn't even listed yet, and when we found him, we couldn't believe no one else was in line to look at him, especially because the shelter was packed when we went.


The shelter makes matching dogs + owners really easy with a detailed description on their info sheet outside of each dog's kennel. When we went into the busy shelter, and walked around and saw all the dogs at first glance, the rest of the dogs were jumping up, barking, growling, etc. and this guy was calmly laying down, wagging his tail, which is a very good sign of the personality of a dog. A calm dog is highly desirable for a pet.


Bringing a dog home from a local shelter is not only helping animals who are strays, or surrendered from owners (Copper was a stray and picked up) from being neighborhood problems, but it's also ensured that the dog is fixed, microchipped, 'cleaned out' from various issues (they deworm, preventative meds, etc.) and updated with vaccines including rabies. It's very affordable, as well. Copper cost us $85 as an adopt fee, whereas in BC, the local shelters are over $300 for the same services! We were only considering dogs found in WA because of the cost alone.


Copper is a Rottie-lab mix and has the coloring of a rottweiler (which makes his Disney-inspired name work, because of his copper-colored 'socks'), and the build of a lab. He's so friendly with people and will let even small children from the park bop him on the head and he'll just keep his tail wagging. We had a bit of trouble putting him in a kennel and for two weeks I thought maybe we'd be evicted because he wouldn't stop barking the entire time we'd be gone. We bought a sonic egg and now we just hook him up with his leash around the couch and he can sleep on his blanket and be right next to his water dish. They haven't heard a peep out of him and so this solution has worked wonders! We wonder if he was abused at some point with a kennel, because the minute we brought him home, he averted the kennel under all circumstances!


Copper was a stray when the shelter picked him up, but certainly someone must have worked with him beforehand, because he knew a few commands, is very friendly with people, and is very well-behaved. He's estimated to be about 18 months, and dogs aren't on the streets for that long without being picked up by animal control. He must have been dumped or ran away though we'll never know. He is an excellent walker (even with the kids won't pull), loves the chuck-it, and is getting trained to wear a pack and hike with us, and goes on near-daily runs with Stefan and the kids on bikerides! We have to be careful around other dogs, though, as he is not very well socialized and can get aggressive with other dogs very quickly, and can escalate to dog fights if we're not vigilant with his body language. Unfortunate, because dogs like having dog friends to play with. We'll get there, but that is the only 'bad' part of his personality. He is, overall, a fantastic dog, and with lowered expectations knowing he was a stray, he has far surpassed where we thought he'd be in only three weeks!
He has found his forever family and we couldn't be more thrilled! I think the shelter would like to know he is being well-cared for, and has found his pack. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Ft. Langley 'Blooming Bush Bike Tour'

This was something brand new we did early in the Spring (yikes! I've neglected this blog for a long time...) around our town, Ft. Langley, BC. There was a 2-3 week period where nearly every house in Ft. Langley, which is home to so many beautifully landscaped properties, had a 'blooming bush' in their yard. The kids and I made up an activity--go on a "blooming bush bike tour" and take photos of all the gorgeous blooms. 
Most of these photos were snapped by the kids, and people, we didn't even get farther than 4 city blocks before we were done because we had taken over 50+ photos!

Here are a few of our favorites, and I tried to get a good array of colors presented. 
If you know which flower/bush it is, leave it for me in the comments (and describe the photo/color of flower so we can know which is which).