Friday, January 31, 2014


These are the words our oldest Bachster had in her first ever spelling bee a couple of days ago.  She did awesome in the spelling bee - she finished in the top four (out of 80 + kids in her grade).  We were all cheering for her from the front row, and were so excited she made it so far!

I am such a proud mama!


Monday, January 27, 2014

Book Nook - Bachsters

Two of the three Bachsters sat down together a few days ago and read through a bunch of new library books.......I just had to share this cute shot in my first "here's a picture instead of a book" Book Nook!


Sunday, January 26, 2014

Sunday Brunch - {fudge in a jar}

I've been trying to eat low-carb lately, and it is tough.  All the yummiest foods are carbs!  Well, I can give up bread products without too much fuss, but sweets.....sweets. I'm a big sweet tooth, so it's a challenge for me to give up sweets. 

So, I've been looking around lately for low-carb recipes, and I came across a blog devoted to healthier desserts.  Of course, I just had to try some of them!

The recipe that really caught my attention is chocolate fudge in a jar from the blog Chocolate Covered Katie (here's the link).  It's a very simple recipe: take a jar of almond butter, mix in coconut oil and cocoa, along with a bit of salt and vanilla and Stevia, then stick it in the fridge.  So simple!  I love that it's low-carb, and uses Stevia as the sweetener (I'm a little scared of artificial sweeteners).  But, this recipe comes with a big caveat: it's best only if you are following a low-carb diet.  If you're eating your normal diet, this fudge won't seem very sweet to you.  But if you've been off sugar for a while, this will be a real treat.

I also like that it all mixes up (and stores in the fridge) in its original jar.  And, there's leftover almond butter, so you could easily make a second batch in another jar if you wanted to.  Two jars of low-carb fudge?  Sounds good to me - and my sweet tooth!


Saturday, January 25, 2014

Snowy Day

Snowy Day...

Chili Day...

Hot Chocolate Day...

Play Day...

Hope you are having a great Saturday!


Monday, January 20, 2014

Book Nook - Paper Towns

Paper Towns by John Green:

First of all, my apologies for the amazon link not working.  I'll check back to see if I can fix it (here is a separate amazon link in the meantime)!

I was really on the fence about posting Paper Towns in Book Nook.  I liked the book, but there were definitely things about it that I didn't like.  The characters were somewhat relatable, but I didn't feel a big concern over what happened to them one way or another.  The writing was good, but I had trouble suspending disbelief in the plot.

So, why is the book here then, you may ask?

One reason and one reason only: I found it fascinating to read a book by a writer gaining his stride.  John Green wrote the very successful The Fault in Our Stars (which I really loved - see the Book Nook post here).  You can see Green starting to gain momentum and working out the kinks with Paper Towns.  It's almost like a rough draft for The Fault in Our Stars.  Both books deal with high school age students on the outside of the crowd.  There is a quest to be had in both books.  A specific novel within each novel plays a key role in both (Paper latches on to Leaves of Grass / Song of Myself while Fault obsesses on a fictional novel).  Green pays a great deal of attention to how teenagers speak, and both novels feel like you are in the midst of a group of teens, sometimes in a fun place (a graduation party), sometimes in a depressing place (Cancer group therapy in a church basement).  Both novels show a respectful and seemingly realistic relationship between the protagonist and his/her parents.  In both novels, Green shows a great deal of respect to his young characters, not patronizing or overly-stereotyping them.

So these are the things I took away from the book.  It was so interesting to see Green's earlier work, and compare it with its more polished, more successful sibling.  It shows a writer's progression, which I found fascinating to discover between the lines.

But, as I mentioned, I am on the fence about the book.  Perhaps if I were in the targeted age group, I could relate to some of the scenes and characters more (the party scene had me rolling my eyes).  I had trouble believing our main character's wild night of revenge with the mysterious girl next door, Margo Roth Spiegelman.  Probably my biggest criticism is that there were no consequences for any character's actions.  For instance, when our protagonist, Quentin, and his group of friends hit the road to find Margo, "Q" worries about getting a speeding ticket, since they are in a big hurry.  And they have a trunk full of beer, and they're all underage.  That might make for an interesting predicament for our characters if they were to get pulled over...........but no, don't worry, because that sort of thing doesn't happen in this book.  Worst case scenario, they forget something they wanted to buy at the gas station when they stop for fuel.

So, maybe this is why I wasn't very invested in the characters.  There were no consequences, nothing riveting in the story that happens due to their actions.  Sometimes life is that way, and sometimes it isn't, but I felt a little let down by it all in the book.

John Green has a couple of other novels out, and I might just pick one up, just to see how it compares to Fault.  Even though this novel didn't have me in its clutches like his later work, I gained some understanding as a reader by comparing the two.

Have you found yourself in this situation - comparing an author's earlier novel to his/her later work?


Sunday, January 19, 2014

Sunday Brunch - {clementine-vanilla bean loaf cake}

I must be hardwired to bake when it's cold outside.  Around Christmas time, it was snowy, it was chilly, the Bachsters were off school, and I had every single ingredient on hand needed for clementine-vanilla bean loaf cake.  I didn't need asking twice!

The recipe is from Martha Stewart's Cakes, which was a birthday gift I received in the Fall, and I was itching to make something from it.  I ended up choosing this recipe (as mentioned, since I already had all the ingredients), but also because it sounded really good and the timing was perfect to serve it at our family holiday party (to ensure that I wouldn't personally eat all of it myself).

I did end up serving it at the party, garnished with clementine slices (because it sort of looks like a loaf of bread otherwise).  And it was really good, with a hint of citrus flavor.  In fact, the flavor and texture improved as it aged (and I can attest to this, because this was my breakfast for a few days!).

Hmmmm....I think we have a bunch of clementines in the fridge.........butter, yes.......vanilla beans, yes............


Friday, January 17, 2014

Ruffle scarf

2013 was not my year, knitting-wise.  I was very unproductive, working on a little here and there, but never really finishing anything of substance.  I had some great ideas, had some big plans, bought some new yarn, but in the end, didn't have much to show for it.

So, I'm very thrilled to show you that I did have one FO (Finished Object) for 2013: a ruffle scarf requested by DD.  We spotted this yarn (Starbella Flash) at Joann's sometime in the Fall.  DD begged me to get it and teach her how to knit a scarf with it.  So, we did buy it, but I knew it wouldn't be a good yarn for learning how to knit with, so I plotted to make it for her in secret!

Once I figured out how to actually use the yarn, it was a quick & easy project.  It's like knitting with netting, and it takes some getting used to.  There is an online video from Premier Yarns that helped me out a lot - thank you, online knitting tutorials, what would I do without you!?

The pattern calls for casting on 8 stitches, but some reviewers commented that their scarves were a bit too short.  So, I cast on 6 stitches, to make a longer, narrower scarf (which I figured would work better for little 8-year-old shoulders anyway).  It turned out pretty long - 68 inches - and I think it grows a bit every time she wears it because the yarn is heavy enough to pull it down.  So, I think if I were to make another one, I'd try a cast on of 7 stitches as a compromise!

I'm happy to say that DD loves her scarf.  She wears it just about every day with her jaunty hot-pink hat (just visible in one of the shots).  She's my little fashionista, this one.

By the way, I did teach DD to knit over her Christmas break from school.  We used big size 10 needles and a soft merino wool, and she's knit maybe about 10 rows with it.  Then she set it down and moved on to other things.  Like mother, like daughter, if my 2013 knitting progress has anything to say about it!


If you're on Ravelry, here's the link to my projects page, where you can see this project & all 28 others!


Monday, January 13, 2014

Book Nook - My Life and Hard Times

I've been doing some thinking about Book Nook and what I want to do with it this year (as well as thinking about some of the books I'd like to read this year - hello Wuthering Heights).  And I think I'm going to make a tiny change to Book Nook.  See, when I started posting about books (with this post) my intention was to only write about books that I love.  And I've stayed true to that - every book on Book Nook has been a book that I've enjoyed.  But some books have been last minute what-am-I-going-to-write-about-today kinds of books.  So going forward, I'll only post a Book Nook post if there's a book that I'm really excited to tell you about, one that I've just put down & have to spread the news about.  You know that kind of book!

But I started thinking it's not fair for me to have Book Nook on Mondays & then not post anything that day.  So, if I have no book to share that week, I'll post a lovely picture related in some way to books or reading.  I'm actually really excited about this photography challenge I've given myself!

Anyway, Book Nook will continue to be here on Mondays.  If there's no fabulous book that week, I'll post a fabulous picture instead!  And, as always, if you have a great book you've been reading, please share.  We'd all love to hear about it (and then promptly reserve it at our local library)!

So, on to this week's Book Nook: My Life and Hard Times by James Thurber:

This is in no way intended to be a book about architecture or geography.  James Thurber, celebrated humorist, writes about his youth in Columbus, Ohio and some of the crazy situations he and his family found themselves.  However, for me, the book was all about the house.  In October, I had the chance to do some photos at the Thurber House for Country Living Magazine (check out this link for the magazine and to see my shot of the Thurber House on the cover!).  The house has loads of character, and walking through the rooms, knowing that Thurber and his family once lived here, seeing the pictures that adorn the walls of them - well, the book and the house seem to go hand in hand.  Having visited the house before I read the book, I was able to visualize the setting with great detail as I enjoyed the stories.  Reading the book enhances the experience of visiting the house, and vice versa.

By the way, here's another shot of the Thurber House that I really like (you can tell it was Fall when this was taken!):

For me, it was also an enjoyable book about geography & Columbus history.  Thurber writes about areas in Columbus that I know - streets, suburbs, landmarks.  It's fascinating to think about life in Columbus at the time of some of these tales, 100 years ago.  In the chapter entitled The Day the Dam Broke, Thurber's Aunt was in a movie theatre on High Street (in 1913), where there was a piano playing in the pit.

There are funny stories about the old family car, the night a ghost in the house caused havoc and Thurber's days at OSU.  I laughed throughout the stories, which got the Bachsters' attention, and they said they wanted to read the stories, too.

Which is totally fine by me, but we're going to go see the house first!


Sunday, January 12, 2014

Sunday Brunch - {crème brûlée}

Crème brûlée on New Year's Day.....

So goes my very goofy (and very short) poem about crème brûlée.  I make it every New Year's Day, not for the Bach-tradition of it, not for the wonderful deliciousness of it.  No, I make it simply because it rhymes.  I'm a little quirky that way.

Perhaps a food that inspires poetry should be put in its own category: nourishment and muse.  Certainly, crème brûlée is perfection: caramelized sugar acting as a barrier to the rich & creamy custard below.  We're all divided on using granulated sugar (which is traditional) vs. brown sugar on top, so everyone in the Bach house gets their choice.  I also add a bit of vanilla bean to the recipe I use, which is from The Best Recipe.  It's so easy & turns out great every single New Year's Day (I mean, every single time)!

Maybe we shouldn't only stick to tradition.  There's no reason crème brûlée can't be enjoyed on a day other than New Year's.  Crème brûlée on SaturdayCrème brûlée in the month of May.  Or, how about crème brûlée everyday?

I could easily do that last one!


Friday, January 10, 2014

Visiting Colony Cats

Last month, I had the opportunity to photograph the cats at Colony Cats for their pet-finder feature on their website.  I was so excited to see all the kitties, especially Panther (here's my last post about her).  It ended up being a crazy morning - at the last minute, the Bachsters had to come with me, and we had to drive across town on a very snowy morning.  Colony Cats was short a few cleaning volunteers that day, so things were also hectic for them.  But, it all turned out well, even better than expected.

First, the Bachsters loved spending time with all the cats.  They all sat on the floor and were bombarded by cats lining up to sit in their laps.  When one cat got off a lap, another cat got right on.  And sometimes, a second cat tried to squeeze on a lap!  There were cats everywhere, and they were so happy to be getting snuggles and laps......

I love the cat-tail-photobomb in this shot:

And, we did see Panther!  I think she recognized us, because she actually jumped on my back as I was bending down to take a shot of another cat.  We all pet her and gave her lots of love, and then she walked off to go take a nap.  Even though we couldn't confirm it was her because it was too hard to see the name on her collar, we knew it was her.  A little lovey, a little aloof.......yep, that's the Panther we know and love.

I can't believe I missed getting a picture of her though! (a very good reason to go back and visit her again, yes?).  However, I did get lots of pics of the many, many cats that reside there.  Here are a few of my favorites:

This cat's name is Smitty, I think.  DD and Little Dude both spent lots of time snuggling with him:

There were a lot of black cats there - I especially like this shot of this Panther-look-alike:

This cat reminds me of my parents' long-gone cat, Luigi:

After about an hour or so, DD's eyes started getting red and watery.  Even though none of us has cat allergies, being in such a small space with so many cats started to have its effect on her.  Before we left, we visited the retail shop next door to take a few pictures of the kittens there.  Can I tell you how difficult it is to take a good picture of a kitten?  They were non-stop!  Thankfully, this little one held still long enough for me to get a shot:

If you are in the Central Ohio area and love cats, do stop by Colony Cats.  It's so visiting the cats, and they really love all the attention.  I'm a little worried that next time we visit, I might be too tempted to adopt Panther!


Monday, January 6, 2014

2014 Resolutions

Happy New Year to you!

I'm afraid I'm off to a bad start with my 2014 post until the 6th, no Sunday Brunch yesterday, no Book Nook for apologies!  Sunday Brunch will be back next Sunday, and hopefully, there will be another post before then.

In the meantime, I've been giving a lot of thought to my New Year's Resolutions.  There are soooo many things I want to work on.  I want to add certain things to my days and take away other things.  It's hard for me to focus on just one resolution (although narrowing it down to one would probably give me better results).  So as the new year kicked in, I sat down and thought about what I'd like to work on.  Perhaps if I share my resolutions here, I'll feel a little more inclined to keep them?

Ever notice how resolutions can be a bit, well, revealing?  Tell everyone that you want to start exercising and you might come off as lazy.  Tell everyone that you want to cut back on your shoe obsession, and you might be seen as Imelda Marcos-ish.  So, it feels a bit like opening up, to admit the things you do (or don't do) that you want to change about yourself.

But that's what blogs are for, right - to get the conversation going!  So, here are my 2014 resolutions:

-Eat low carb - ditch the sugar.  This one's going to be really tough, but it's so important.  It's 6 days in, and so far so good, so that's something, right?!

-Exercise - yoga/walking.  This goes hand in hand with eating right.  I've got to make it happen!

-Do more nature photography.  I really miss nature photography.  It's one of the reasons I started getting into photography.  I'm going to try to get out more, hopefully with the family coming along, to wander the trails and parks in Central Ohio.  I promise to share my pics with you!

-Try to eliminate/reduce all the errands & running around.  When the Bachsters were little, it was a real treat to run errands by myself.  I still have that same mentality now that they're older, because I do all my running around when they're at school.  But this is prime -getting-stuff-done-time that I feel I've been wasting.  So, I'm going to scale back all the little errands - maybe combine them all in one big errand-day, or do more errands with the Bachsters in tow, so that I can get things done during school time.

-No more lottery tickets.  I know, I know.  The lottery!  Who ever wins that?!  While I don't buy a lot of tickets, I do buy some every now & then.  It's time to stop dreaming and start focusing on the attainable.

-Stop puttering on the computer.  This is another big time waster for me.  I can search around and putter from site to site online for hours.  And be perfectly happy.......yet get nothing done.  I realize that I do it as a place/way to relax when I'm feeling tired.  I'm going to head to my comfy chair instead, to knit or read (and get something accomplished while I take it easy).

-Be more frugal.  I have everything I could possible want or need.  I need to keep reminding myself of that, and take myself out of the consumer-circus.

-Show/tell my family how much I love them - all the time.  Don't get me wrong - I do this.  But I could certainly do it more.  Being an introvert, I tend to dwell in my thoughts and maybe never get those thoughts out there.

-Practice better handwriting.  As you can tell from the's atrocious!

What are your 2014 New Year's Resolutions?