Recent Reads

30 June 2014

I already told you that in the summer, I prefer to go full beach read. So most of these books fall into that category.

The Fault in Our Stars
by John Green

I read this because I like to read books that are "all the rage." I really enjoyed it. If you're like me and you hate knowing too much about a book before you've read it, then don't watch the movie trailer. You get about 95% of the plot in the trailer. I suppose it isn't very plot driven, but still...It's a quick read full of angsty teenagers...who have cancer. I thought Mr. Green did a good job of making the teenagers feel like teenagers despite battling debilitating illnesses. The relationship between the two main characters seemed a little underdeveloped, but I may have only felt that way because I read it really fast.

by Rainbow Rowell

While we're on the subject of love among high schoolers, I'll direct your attention to Eleanor and Park. It's the story of Eleanor who sits on the bus next to Park and soon starts reading comics over his shoulder, and it stays just that cute. Rowell does such a good job of conveying high school awkwardness and that all-consuming first love and the subplots of difficult family life give it some meat. 
by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

The Language of Flowers is a book about a girl just graduated out of the foster system who is healing from a difficult past and learning to accept a different future. Laced throughout the story is her obsession with the Victorian language of flowers; her passion for it interrupts her destructive cycles. As I read I kept comparing this book to What Alice Forgot in that it had a pretty compelling concept that lost a little steam once I'd gotten used to it, but then it ended well. Overall, I really enjoyed reading it.
by Ann Patchett

When I read the synopsis of this book I was pretty uninspired. Opera and terrorists? How would that even work? But this book...I know a book has me when I stop being an English teacher while I'm reading it and just fall into the experience. Bel Canto did this for me. I loved it. It's hopeful and heartwrenching: a hostage situation meets Babette's Feast.
by Marilynne Robinson

If Bel Canto moves us out of beach reads, then Housekeeping has us at Full Blown Literature. It was my first experience with Ms. Robinson, and my is she something. The book was on the heavy side - cold, foggy - but it was short and her prose is so effortlessly crafted with such a mix of eerie female characters, I highly recommend it - but probably as an Autumn read over a Summer read since it definitely isn't CandyLit.

7QT: Like Father Like Son

27 June 2014

It's been awhile since I threw up some of what the Jacobs have been throwing down, so here we go.

The Big Jacob

Complaining about the picture of him in this post that exposes some knicks and bruises on his shins.

JACOB: It looks... It looks like I have some weird disease. (sighs) Now I have to go read all the nice comments on the post about the bed I made you.


After reading my post "On Money and Vacations and Marriage" where I complain about his careless spending habits:

JACOB: I come from a family whose relationship to money was very similar to...St. Francis's.

The Little One
Little Jake's favorite games:

1) Let's throw balls at each others' heads.

2) Surfer (Jake) & Surfboard (other person)


ME: Jake, how old is your father?
JAKE: Two.
ME: How old??

JAKE: Are you a kid or an ohdult?
ME: An adult.
JAKE: I like it when ohdults pick me up.


Describing an unpleasant odor on our walk:

JAKE: Smells like somebody's cooking a skunk.


Jacob was still in bed early one morning and little Jake ran in and jumped on his back:

JAKE: You can be my horse! Giddyon, girl. Giddyon giddyon, girlie.

Photo to Wood Image Transfer

25 June 2014

One of the first things I ever pinned was an image to wood transfer. I used this tutorial here. I have since done lots of image transfers - usually I break it out for the tighter Christmases. I think it's a pretty magical DIY.

And the magic is all in the Liquitex Gel Medium which you can get from Amazon or Michael's. The Gel Medium lifts the link off of a printed piece of paper and adheres it to another surface.


Image Print Out (flipped)
Piece of Wood or Plywood

1. Sand and clean your wooden surface. Or get your husband to do it.
2. Print your image with a laser jet printer. But before you print it out, flip it horizontally (you can do this with Mac's Preview App so you don't need any fancy software.) Use the cheapest flimsiest paper available. I print mine out at FedEx and I make two copies just in case I botch the first one.
Trim off excess paper.
2. Cover your image with gel medium. Or cover the wood surface with gel medium. Or do both.
3. Press the paper - image side down - onto your wooden surface and smooth out any bubbles in the gel. I use a credit card to help with this. Let it dry completely. I usually just leave it for a night and come back.
4. Once the gel medium is totally dry, moisten the paper with a washcloth. Make sure it's totally soaked and then begin to rub off the paper. This is the most time consuming part. 
Do it slowly and don't press too hard or you might lose patches of ink.
I recommend working on the key parts of the image (faces?) first. You will almost definitely lose flecks of ink during the process. That's fine and is even kind of charming - but sometimes you accidentally los a nose or something and it's just not worth finishing. When this happens to me, I just let the paper dry back out, grab some sandpaper, and start over from the beginning.
The paper comes off in layers. You might have to do this step in two or three shifts because as the water dries you will better be able to see lingering fibers of the paper.
Rewet it and carry on.

5. Once you've removed all the paper and it's dry, cover it with Mod Podge. Maybe give it a couple coats.
And you're done.
Consider taking a picture of it in another room next to a succulent.
I'll eventually update this post with more images when I finish the other two pieces I was working on - I had to scrap one because I'm a dummy and the horizon was at a 30 degree angle. I had to scrap the other because I lost some ink and nobody likes a cyclops bride.

Good luck with your image transfers, and I'm happy to help you troubleshoot!

Birthday, Book, Bed, Blog?

23 June 2014

No blog post happened today...for a couple reasons


My little brother turned 25, and we had ourselves a little party.


Houston Public Library finally came through on a hold...

...good thing too because book club is in two days. Hopefully Ms. Patchett lends herself to speed reading.

I'm planning on putting up a wood image transfer tutorial on Wednesday, but for now I must book it up and then go and move some bodies around, so I have a place to sleep.

See you soon!

Make Your Own Yogurt, You Yogurt Eater You

20 June 2014

To make or to buy? This debate spans all kinds of industry, but is especially hot when it comes to yogurt. Is it really worth the hassle? Not surprisingly, I think it is. I tend to prefer my food life to be served up with a whole lot of unnecessary fuss in the name of "simplicity" however, and maybe you're like the polar opposite and that's fine. So here are some reasons to make yogurt at home.

- 1 -
It's Cheaper

Homemade yogurt is cheaper. Our homemade yogurt costs about $1.50/quart and our preferred storebought yogurt costs $4.00/quart. That means it's at least twice as expensive to buy it at the store. Your margins might be different, but this is true for us.

Maybe you're a frugalista like me, and you calculate how much you save by doing things yourself and then converting that into an hourly wage. I've been making yogurt for a long time, and it honestly only takes me about five minutes of "active" time. So if I make a half gallon of yogurt that saves me 5$ and it only takes me five extra minutes, it's kind of like earning 60$/hour.

But let's say making yogurt takes a lot more time than that for you, maybe you like to watch the pot boil and the temperature rise and you did nothing but stare at it for that entire half hour. Even in that scenario, I bet you'd still come out above minimum wage.

- 2 -
You Have Control Over the Milk Quality

I'm picky about my milk. I like it local and non-homogenized and grassfed and not ultra-temp pasteurized and preferrably organic but at least hormone/antibiotic free, blah blah blah. Yogurt that truly meets my dairy criteria is very hard to find and VERY expensive. But I can find the milk for $6.00/gal at Whole Foods, and the milk begets the yogurt.

- 3 -
You Have Control Over the Additives

So many yogurts are chock full of not only sugar but thickening agents and all kinds of other things that I'm sure do something, but I'm one of those really annoying types that likes to be able to pronounce everything on my food labels.

Back when Breyer's did that commercial with the kids who were trying to read the ingredient list of various ice cream brands and they could only read the Breyer's label because the ingredients were so basic. I loved that commercial. I was like "Preach it, kindergarteners!"

- 4 -
It isn't hard to do. 

I've never totally botched a batch of yogurt: I've had batches with better or worse consistency, but never a total fail. I'm pretty good at following directions, but I manage to screw up lots of kitchen efforts despite following the directions religiously. So I can say with the authority of the botcher: yogurt isn't hard to make. Making it takes forethought, but once it's part of your routine, it's a breeze.

- 5 -
You Can Find a Method That Works for You

There are lots of ways to make yogurt. You can make it in a Crock Pot. You can make it in your oven. You can make it with a cooler. You can make it in the yogurt maker you scored at Goodwill. Lots of options. See my way at the end of the post. Or Google it and find one that works with your life and your schedule.

- 6 -
You Can Strain it to Make Greek Yogurt

Real Greek yogurt is thicker than regular yogurt because the whey has been strained out. (You can do this by dumping your yogurt into a cheese cloth draped over a strainer and letting the whey drip out for a few hours.)

Just think: someday when you skip your nightly ice cream scoop to indulge in your homemade Greek yogurt sweetened with raw local honey, not only will you get to eat something delicious that you made all by your little self and is pretty good for you on the dessert scale, you'll also get to contemplate how in Rhodes Log estimation you've reached the epitome of coolness.

- 7 -
Our Method

Gather ingredients: Milk and "Starter Yogurt" (Use yogurt from your last batch or if it's storebought, make sure it has "live and active cultures.)
Place jar(s) in stock pot.
Pour milk into jar(s).
Fill stockpot with water.
Boil jars in your pot till milk reaches a temp of 185 degrees-ish. (No thermometer? They're pretty cheap, or you can just heat it till the milk has a skin on top.) I start my batches of yogurt when I know I'm going to be in the kitchen for at least a half hour because that's about how long it takes to heat the milk in the stock pot.
Remove jar from pot to cool.
Check back in a couple hours. When the milk reaches a temperature of 110-120 degrees, gently stir in 1/4 c. yogurt per quart of milk. (No thermometer? Cool it till it's very warm but not so hot that you can't hold the jar comfortably in your hands.)
Put lid on jar and store in warm place (like your oven with the light on) for 8-24 hours.
Once yogurt has set, transfer it to the fridge. Don't stir it and try not to jostle it before it's chilled, that seems to be the key for better texture.

And Voila! Thoughts? Tips? Advice? Beef? I'd love to hear any and all of it. Linking up with Kathryn!

When Jacob Builds Things

18 June 2014

Jacob likes to build things. He'll go weeks or even months sometimes without hacking into wood and will spend leisure time getting lost in other enriching activities like watching Veep or Curb Your Enthusiasm, but then he'll get the itch and won't come inside for days and the children will get lulled to sleep by the sander and the table saw.

One of the itches recently took the form of a bed. We've slept on a rickety bedframe since we were first married, and last year's move from Los Angeles to Houston involved leaving behind our boxspring since the trailer was too full. This meant that our mattress was unsupported at the foot of the bed and drooped down a little. Not the biggest deal really...until you sat on the edge of the bed and your pretty bum slid off and plopped unceremoniously on the floor.

So Jacob wanted to make a bed for our fifth anniversary. I was a little ambivalent because hopefully we'll be upgrading to a California King one of these years, and if Jacob's going to throw down on some lumber and spend lots of time on a bed I'd rather it be THE bed instead of a bed we're going to graduate out of as soon as we get a few extra square feet in our bedroom. He convinced me he needed to practice by making this queen first, however, and went out and bought some cheap rough cut hardwood.

Jacob is pretty adorable when he builds things. I know he measures things, but he I'm pretty sure he just goes with his gut when the measurements don't need to be standard. He's also tall with (freakishly) long arms, so sometimes what "feels right" to him is woefully out of proportion with the rest of the world.

This is the mirror on the wall by our front door...and me on my tiptoes.
Despite my failed efforts at conveying a sense of scale in this (and the following) photo. Just trust me. It's a Case. And. Point.

So when this tall man with freakishly long arms sets about making a bed for himself, in one of the early versions the mattress might, just might, end up four and half feet off the ground.
Jake I think put it most adeptly: "Papa made a bed for a giant!!!"

But it's OK. Nothing that he couldn't fix with a saw, and soon enough we had this:

Our room is small, so this is as far away from the bed as I could get for a photo.

I told Jacob I wanted it really simple, so we could showcase the grain of the cypress. He polished it with this beeswax and orange oil wood finish which he uses on lots of projects. He may take a few inches off the headboard, but we're not sure.

So, now that we've been married for five years we finally have a real bed for the children to take over.
Thank you, husband mine. I love it. It's beautiful.

Maybe for our sixth anniversary we can get a duvet cover.

Celebrating as Young Parents

16 June 2014

Jacob took several days off over the weekend so we could enjoy our anniversary. On Friday we went to Herman Park to ride the kiddy train. Jake insisted that we ride in the very last car, and as soon as the train started to move he yelled: "It's my first train ride EVER!!"

We then got off and had a picnic lunch, before getting back on the train, and Jake yelled: "It's my first train ride ever...AGAIN!!!"

We then migrated to a little staycation at The Houstonian. For some reason, Friday night was the cheapest night to go, so we went. We checked in early, brought the kids, and let them splash around at the club pool. We ordered poolside margaritas and enjoyed periodic slugs of them as Jacob waded after the toddler and I kept the baby upright as she flung both arms relentlessly into the water over and over and over again.

Would I have liked to drink my cocktail and read uninterrupted in a lounge chair? Umm....yes. But Lucy June's undaunted attempts to grab the spraying water in the kiddie pool fountain were funnier for a lot longer than you'd think. And Jake is SO! EXCITED! about life that taking him to do special fun things kinda makes me feel like a hero.

Eventually Jake went home for the night to watch youtube videos of tractors with his uncles, and we grabbed sushi and went back to the hotel where we sat on the couch in our room and watched Lucy June maneuver on the floor. It wasn't exactly a hip, late night bar with deep set lounge chairs, but she is in that phase where she can only scoot backwards and thus for all her efforts just ends up farther and farther away from the object she wants. So...pretty great in its own right.

If you follow me on instagram, you know that Lucy June was raking in wrong gender compliments all weekend. One sweet lady in the line at Marshall's raved in Spanish about my sweet little boys. I smiled and nodded and thanked her, but she wasn't done. She told me we had to try for a girl, and while we were at it we should really go for two girls to balance out the family. At that point, I was just too far in.

But thankfully there was no such confusion at the pool, her cousin's hand me down swimsuit left nothing to the imagination.

So that was our weekend and it was awesome.

Five Years Ago Today

12 June 2014

I'm sitting here in my muggy living room all wrapped up in memories of a pretty awesome day five years ago. And since I've basically never put any wedding pics on the blog, I decided to turn it up to eleven and give you a whole entire slideshow. You'll also get to hear "our song" - the song we danced to at the wedding - sung by our college buddy JT.

(And @BazinChronicles totally crashed the slideshow.)

Mr. Jacob Augustine, Keeper of Bees, Father of my Children, Dishwasher Unloader and First Diaper Changer of the Day, I have more than loved these last five years with you.

Five Favorites: Gift Ideas For Him

11 June 2014

Since Father's Day is around the corner and tomorrow is Jacob's and my anniversary, I've been thinking husband pretty nonstop, so here are some gift ideas from my muchacho to yours.

- 1 -
I remember talking to my friend Wendy about gifts for her man, and she said she went for anything whiskey related. In that vein, I'll draw your attention to these Voltolo Sphere Ice Molds. Jacob has two and loves them.

- 2 -
Jacob’s had this watch for about a year now, and he really likes it. I know watches are very personal choices but this is a relatively inexpensive, knock around watch that fits a variety of occasions. a couple reviews I've read complain about the band breaking, but Jacob's is holding up really well despite constant use. 

Fun fact: despite being right-handed, Jacob wears his watch on his right wrist. I tease him endlessly about it.

- 3 -
We don’t have one of these, but Jacob wants one badly. He dreams of having one right above a trash can and he mentions it every time we move, which is regularly.

- 4 - 
Outfit His Poker Night
Jacob does Poker Night. He’s not really one to “hang out with the guys” but he morphs into Mr. Social Butterfly as soon as anyone says Poker Night. He has a Poker Felt that he rolls out on the occasion and this Poker Chip Set which he loves despite its mediocre rating.

- 5 -
Subscribe him to: The Family Handyman
Jacob loves his Family Handyman subscription. It has good tips about how to tackle things at home and great product reviews. This is straight from the husband-horse’s mouth because his gender normative wife has never peeked at it.

What are your go to gift ideas for the men in your life??

And head over to Hallie's for more favorites.
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