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Hide and Seek

November 15th, 2012 — 11:33pm

We play a lot of hide and seek these days, and Ethan will often hide.

The rules are: you have to look around for Ethan (this can be done sitting on the couch) and verbalize where you’ve looked. Is he under the coffeetable? No. Is he under the chair? No. Where could he be? Where’s Ethan? Ethan will slowly come out of his hiding spot (see above), and the longer you pretend not to see him, the harder he laughs when you finally do see him and are startled by his presence.

9 comments » |Posted under

Thoughts on Salvation of a Saint by Keigo Higashino

November 12th, 2012 — 10:43pm

Title: Salvation of a Saint [CD] [MP3] [Hardcover]
Author: Keigo Higashino [website]
Narrator: David Pittu
Genre: Mystery
Date Published: October 2, 2012

Synopsis:

From the author of the internationally bestselling, award-winning The Devotion of Suspect X comes the latest novel featuring “Detective Galileo.”

In 2011, The Devotion of Suspect X was a hit with critics and readers alike.  The first major English language publication from the most popular bestselling writer in Japan, it was acclaimed as “stunning,” “brilliant,” and “ingenious.”  Now physics professor Manabu Yukawa—Detective Galileo—returns in a new case of impossible murder, where instincts clash with facts and theory with reality.

Yoshitaka, who was about to leave his marriage and his wife, is poisoned by arsenic-laced coffee and dies.  His wife, Ayane, is the logical suspect—except that she was hundreds of miles away when he was murdered. The lead detective, Tokyo Police Detective Kusanagi, is immediately smitten with her and refuses to believe that she could have had anything to do with the crime.  His assistant, Kaoru Utsumi, however, is convinced Ayane is guilty.  While Utsumi’s instincts tell her one thing, the facts of the case are another matter.  So she does what her boss has done for years when stymied—she calls upon Professor Manabu Yukawa.

But even the brilliant mind of Dr. Yukawa has trouble with this one, and he must somehow find a way to solve an impossible murder and capture a very real, very deadly murderer.

Salvation of a Saint is Keigo Higashino at his mind-bending best, pitting emotion against fact in a beautifully plotted crime novel filled with twists and reverses that will astonish and surprise even the most attentive and jaded of listeners.

My friend Jessica really enjoyed The Devotion of Suspect X (at least, I think she was the one who enjoyed it?) so I was really excited to have the chance to review another of Keigo Higashino’s books, Salvation of a Saint.

My thoughts:

If you enjoy Sherlock Holmes, you’ll really enjoy Salvation of a Saint because it’s Sherlock Holmes for the 21st century. The book revolves around how someone could commit a murder when they were hundreds of miles away. While I enjoy car chases and shoot outs, I even more enjoy stories that have a puzzle to solve, which is what you’re trying to do in Salvation of a Saint.

My favorite character was the eccentric professor (aptly nicknamed Detective Galileo) who forces the detectives to pursue only logical thinking, even when there seems to be nothing logical about the story.While I haven’t read any Sherlock Holmes in quite a while, the way Detective Galileo behaves reminds me much of the way Sherlock Holmes behaves, particularly in the way he asks questions of those who haven’t figured things out as quickly as Galileo/Holmes.

The book posed an interesting question, both how someone could commit this crime, but also why. I read some reviews on Amazon before starting the book, and a few folks talked about how they couldn’t believe that that particular person, the way they were presented in the book, would commit a crime like this. I tend to agree, but on the other hand, it’s a fairly complex story by the time you get to the end, and who of us really knows what is lurking in anyone’s thoughts?

This is my second novel in translation that I’ve listened to on audio, and I’m becoming increasingly convinced that audio is the only way to listen to translated books. I really enjoyed listening to the narrator pronounce the Japanese words (names and cities, mostly), and I think it was his correct translation that helped me quickly remember who the characters were. When I read a translated novel, I seem to take a lot longer than normal to get all the characters in my head due to the fact that their names are so foreign to me.

I really enjoyed listening to this narrator, David Pittu. He had a different voice for each character that gave me an indication who was talking before he read the part that tells you who is speaking. His voice for the three women in the book were quite breathy, though, which was distracting in the beginning. I hope, however, that I have the chance to listen to this narrator again!

Thank you to Macmillan Audio for sending me this audiobook for review.

7 comments » |Posted under

Advent Calendar

October 13th, 2012 — 11:06pm

My husband’s mom has a really cool advent calendar. She made it from a Busilla kit when her kids were babies (they’re both in their 40s now). Dave said he wanted that advent calendar when she died (she encourages us to tell her what we want when she dies), but I knew that his sister would want it as well. I actually thought that she’d somehow snagged it last year when she said she had it, but it turned out my mother-in-law had only loaned it to her. When Dave’s mom dies (hopefully not for 30 or more years — that would put her over 100), I don’t want to start any wars or bad feelings over any thing. Material possessions are not worth losing family over, so I decided to make an advent calendar myself!

My inspiration started over at homemade by jill. She did an advent sew along that has great instructions, some tutorials, but best of all, a LOT of pictures from people who did the advent sew along. Here’s her instructions:

Week 1
Week 2
Week 3
Week 4
Brief discussion on what kind of felt to use
Ornament templates

I scoured Jill’s Flickr group to see what ornaments people had made. I needed inspiration for colors, details, and unique ornaments. I wanted this advent calendar to be special to my family, which is why we had to have a football. Football is a big part of our family and part of the Christmas tradition, so that was a must. If I could avoid it, I didn’t want to have any duplicates such as ornaments or presents.

I started on this project back in February so there wouldn’t be any pressure to finish it at the last minute. I purchased felt from Heather Bailey and got to work on the ornaments. All of the ornaments are hand stitched and stuffed, even the candle.

This was my biggest advent calendar inspiration! I copied the shape of her tree and really made an effort with my ornaments. I wasn’t going to machine stitch them, but if something wasn’t as close to perfect as I could get it, I did it again.

Inspiration for the acorn and the color of the pockets came from Jeanetics, Rudolph is from See Suzy Spin (and despite the fact that she says the wreath is super easy to make, I couldn’t do it and am bummed. Her wreath is super cute!), and the tilted hat on the snowman was inspired by this one. I made the sleigh from a picture I found online, as well as the rocking horse (though there’s a good template here). There’s a few ornaments I want to redo, and since we’re hoping to have another baby someday soon, I’ll be making a stocking for the advent calendar for that child. I’d like to have a few extra ornaments, so if you have any suggestions, please let me know! I’ve tried and failed at making a wreath, holly is an option, but other than making another ornament or present, I’m at a loss. The nativity ornaments seem like an obvious choice, but my husband would rather not have them.

I realized after sewing on almost half the buttons that you really need a button with a shank. They do not make green buttons with shanks. Trust me, I googled the heck out of that question. You can make a shank, though, either with the thread that you use to sew on the button or with a bead. I found some green beads that seemed to be perfect, and I initially thought I would have just one bead in the center of the button, but I couldn’t make the button sit correctly on the bead. I eventually figured out that I could have one bead under each hole, not only giving the beads the perfect lift off the felt, but also allowing them to sit just right. Bonus: they add a little bit of sparkle of you happen to be looking at the calendar from the side!

The snowflakes and the candy cane bias tape were my husband’s idea, both of which I balked at and have since become my favorite parts of the calendar. The snowflakes add some interesting dimension to areas that would otherwise be bare, and the candy cane striping makes the calendar so much fun! Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find red and white striped bias tape. I don’t know if it’s a seasonal thing or if it even exists. What I found was on Etsy and was handmade by someone. I ended up needing about 3.5 yards of the bias tape, which I only found out after I bought 3 yards of vintage red and white striped bias tape. The tape that is on the calendar now is what was handmade and was bought after I got the vintage tape and realized I didn’t have enough.

Binding the back and front together took more skill than I currently have, so I owe a huge thanks to Amanda for helping me out with it. She patiently sewed the two pieces together when I was afraid to and never made me feel like I was intruding, even though I was there for 6 hours, 4 of which was spent finishing the advent calendar.

As part of the advent calendar, I want to make a tradition of having things we do in the days leading up to Christmas. I want it to be a time of year that we not only slow down and enjoy time as a family, but that we focus on being thankful and kind to others. I thought about having activities in each pocket, but what if you can’t do the activity that day? So instead I will have a list of things to do that will go in the pocket on the day that we do them. Things like, “Enjoy mugs of hot chocolate in front of the fire.” “Find the home with the best Christmas lights and take them a thank you note.” That last one is from here, which really inspired me! It’s not just about enjoying the Christmas lights because you thank the people that put up your favorite display. How kind and thoughtful! Maybe one will be, “Open the door for everyone today.” Nothing monumental, but something that takes us outside of ourselves. I haven’t made up my full list, but I will soon! More inspiration for activities can be found here.

 

20 comments » |Posted under

Thoughts on Brain Rules for Baby by John Medina

October 11th, 2012 — 12:32am

Title: Brain Rules for Baby [buy the book] [buy the audiobook] [book website]
Author: John Medina [website]
Pages: 304
Genre: Non-fiction
Date Published: October 12, 2010

I approach most projects with the same mindset: arm myself with as much knowledge as possible and then do the project. Pregnancy and parenting have been no different, and the latest book I read (which happened to be on audio), Brain Rules for Baby by John Medina, was so good that I immediately listened to it again. I was tempted to listen to it a third time, but there’s other books I want to listen to, so I had to set it aside for now.

Let me get this out of the way now: I thought Brain Rules for Baby was so good that it should be required reading for all parents and soon-to-be parents. I thought this book was so good, I read it TWICE, which says a lot because I have a rule that I don’t re-read books. I thought this book was so good that I’m already implementing many of his suggestions. I thought this book was so good that I intend to listen to it again in a couple of years, just in case there’s something I can improve on. 

What I liked about Brain Rules for Baby is that not only does Medina quote and discuss a lot of studies, but he tells you how much you should trust that study. A study that was done one time is interesting but the results there from need to be taken with a grain of salt. Studies that have been replicated a number of times can be assumed to be reliable with the results they produce. I like this because he’s not just blithely quoting studies in order to support some bizarre way of parenting. Rather, he uses these studies to illustrate what works and what doesn’t when it comes to parenting.

I consider myself to be a fairly savvy parent. I don’t worry if I’m parenting the “right” way. I’m usually the one dispensing advice instead of asking for it (which, let’s be honest, has more to do with the fact that Ethan is super mellow fellow rather than the fact that I’m so smart). And yet I took away a lot from Brain Rules for Baby that I want to implement in our family. Such as:

  • It’s okay to fight in front of your child, but be sure to reconcile in front of your child as well.
  • Teaching kids to display empathy will allow them to have more friends which will result in their being happy later in life, which is usually all that parents want for their children.
  • Guided play actually helps a child’s IQ because they are learning things like negotiation, how to interact with others, etc.
  • Naming a child’s feeling is the one way to defuse a child’s intense emotions.
  • Run towards a child’s emotions, not away from them. Don’t judge those emotions, just state matter-of-factly that you see those emotions are there.

If I had the physical book, it would have been riddled with post-its. I may end up buying the physical book, but I have to say that the audio was fantastic. In fact, I would say that this is the best audio I’ve listened to so far, because it didn’t sound like the narrator, who happened to be the author, was reading a book. Rather, it sounded like he was giving a  TED presentation. He made a lot of scientific talk easy to follow, easy to understand, relatable, and practical.

I can’t stop talking about this book and telling my friends about Brain Rules for Baby. I’m trying to figure out how I can trick Dave in to listening to it. If I could send all new parents home with a copy of this book, I would. No matter how old your child is, I heartily recommend Brain Rules for Baby!

8 comments » |Posted under

Thoughts on The Midwife of Hope River by Patricia Harman

August 27th, 2012 — 9:28pm

Title: The Midwife of Hope River [buy the book]
Author: Patricia Harman [website]
Pages: 400
Genre: Fiction
Date Published: August 28, 2012

Summary: 

Midwife Patience Murphy has a gift: a talent for escorting mothers through the challenges of bringing children into the world. Working in the hardscrabble conditions of Appalachia during the Depression, Patience takes the jobs that no one else wants, helping those most in need—and least likely to pay. She knows a successful midwifery practice must be built on a foundation of openness and trust—but the secrets Patience is keeping are far too intimate and fragile for her to ever let anyone in.

Honest, moving, and beautifully detailed, Patricia Harman’s The Midwife of Hope River rings with authenticity as Patience faces nearly insurmountable difficulties. From the dangerous mines of West Virginia to the terrifying attentions of the Ku Klux Klan, Patience must strive to bring new light and life into an otherwise hard world.

My Thoughts:

Let me say upfront that I coordinated the blog tour for this book. However, if I hadn’t liked it, I just wasn’t going to say anything about it at all. Take from that what you will.

Ever since Dave and I decided to try to get pregnant over two years ago, I’ve become somewhat obsessed with midwives. I wanted a home birth myself, but it wasn’t something Dave was comfortable with. My first exposure to home birth was Rixa’s planned unassisted home birth, which, of all the birth stories I’ve ever read, is probably one of the few that I’ll never forget. I poked around on her blog and I knew. I just knew. I wanted a home birth, and if I couldn’t have a home birth, then a natural birth in a hospital would suffice. So between the time that we started trying to get pregnant and the time that I had Ethan (about 10 months total), I started reading all about midwives and home birth and birth stories. I’m telling you this so you’ll see how perfect of a fit The Midwife of Hope River was for me. That I would end up reading it was a given.

I ended up reading this book about a week after finding out I had a blighted ovum — a pregnancy that ends in a miscarriage. While this seems like the last book I should have been reading at the time, I think it was perfect and helped the grieving process. I started reading it in the car on the way home from Lake Tahoe with my husband, and within the first two pages I was sobbing. It’s hard to find time to grieve when you’re running after a toddler, so if I had to do it while reading a book, well, then I’ll take what I can get.

I don’t think I’ll need a year to deal with the miscarriage, but this quote made my heart ache for moms who’ve had worse miscarriages than my own:

“Grief takes about a year,” Mrs. Kelly once told a young mother who had lost her son. “You have to get through each holiday, each new season. You will cry at Christmas and New Years and Mother’s Day and Thanksgiving. You will suffer with the first daffodil, the first falling red leaves, the first snow . . . Each occasion, each new season will rip your heart out, then when there’s nothing left you’ll get better.”

This rang true for me:

I thought there were no tears left, but the well of sorrow never runs dry.

With a midwife as a main character, there’s quite a few birth stories, which I loved. I don’t think they’re graphic, but I’ve read and seen pictures of some pretty graphic stuff.

Themes include letting go of guilt, learning to adapt in a new environment, becoming comfortable in a career (who among us haven’t felt like an imposter when we are early in our careers and telling people what we do?), being the kind of friend that can both nurture and allow someone to fly free, and dealing with death and tragedy.

The book wasn’t perfect, though I liked it a lot. I did find myself trying to separate what I had read in the book from what I know to have happened in real life. That’s one of the best signs of a good book: that separating reality from fiction becomes difficult.

21 comments » |Posted under

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