Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Father's Day Bouquet


For Father's Day Jason received a bouquet of fresh "flowers." The flower tops are "fun-sized" butterfingers, the stems are colored pencils hot glued to the butterfingers (I should have used green instead of blue!), and the decorative "pebbles" are milk duds. I think this would work with whatever the favorite candy is of the father in question!

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Bad Science

Last week I read two books that were so good I feel like they should be required reading in school. One was named Bad Science, by Ben Goldacre, and the other was Do You Believe in Magic?, by Paul Offit.


Bad Science's description: "Have you ever wondered how one day the media can assert that alcohol is bad for us and the next unashamedly run a story touting the benefits of daily alcohol consumption? Or how a drug that is pulled off the market for causing heart attacks ever got approved in the first place? How can average readers, who aren't medical doctors or Ph.D.s in biochemistry, tell what they should be paying attention to and what's, well, just more BS?"

"Ben Goldacre has made a point of exposing quack doctors and nutritionists, bogus credentialing programs, and biased scientific studies. He has also taken the media to task for its willingness to throw facts and proof out the window. But he's not here just to tell you what's wrong. Goldacre is here to teach you how to evaluate placebo effects, double-blind studies, and sample sizes, so that you can recognize bad science when you see it. You're about to feel a whole lot better."


Do You Believe in Magic?'s description: "In Do You Believe in Magic?, medical expert Paul A. Offit, M.D., offers a scathing exposé of the alternative medicine industry, revealing how even though some popular therapies are remarkably helpful due to the placebo response, many of them are ineffective, expensive, and even deadly."

"Dr. Offit reveals how alternative medicine—an unregulated industry under no legal obligation to prove its claims or admit its risks—can actually be harmful to our health."

"An outspoken advocate for science-based health advocacy who is not afraid to take on media celebrities who promote alternative practices, Dr. Offit advises, 'There’s no such thing as alternative medicine. There’s only medicine that works and medicine that doesn’t.'"

I really loved both of these books. They were easy to read, and fascinating.

Both explain why you should critically examine health claims made by those in the media, and how to critically examine them. Both were fascinating, fun to read, and full of crazy stuff that's ignored or misunderstood by the media. For example, did you know that antioxidant supplements not only have been found to have no benefit, but actually increase your chance of dying from cancer or heart disease? I had no idea.

I highly recommend them if you'd like to have the ability to be able to critically examine health, medical, or science claims made by those on the news, podcasts, blogs, news websites, etc.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

2015 Book List

Well, I only read about half as many books in 2015 as I did in 2014, but that's okay. I plan to read a lot more this year. I made a list today of books I want to read and am excited to get started on it.

There is one book that I feel like reading this year was a real accomplishment - Don Quixote. I wanted to read it before our trip to Spain, and I'm really glad I did. It was a great, clever, funny book. I listened to it on LibriVox - a site where you can listen to free audio books (that are all in the public domain). It took me a very long time to listen to all of it - like a whole month. I listened to all of Volume 1, which was published in 1605. There is still all of Volume 2 (published in 1605) for me to listen to, which I feel will be kind of hard work (like the first one was), but just as rewarding.

The books I read in 2015 were:

- Rogue Knight (Five Kingdoms) by Brandon Mull
- 13 Suspicious Incidents by Lemony Snicket
- "Shouldn't You Be in School?" by Lemony Snicket
- The Name of This Book is Secret by Pseudonymous Bosch
- If You're Reading This, It's Too Late by Pseudonymous Bosch
- This Book is Not Good for You by Pseudonymous Bosch
- This Isn't What It Looks Like by Pseudonymous Bosch
- You Have to Stop This by Pseudonymous Bosch
- 123 Magic by Thomas W. Phelan
- Don Quixote, Volume 1 by Miguel De Cervantes, translated by John Ormsby
- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling (reread)
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling (reread)
- The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
- Steve and I by Terri Irwin
- The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
- The Princess Bride by William Goldman
- Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne
- The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank
- Entwined by Heather Dixon
- Bad Magic by Pseudonymous Bosch
- The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
- The Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard) by Rick Riordan
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling (reread)
- A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett 
- Percy Jackson's Greek Heroes by Rick Riordan
- Crystal Keepers (Five Kingdoms) by Brandon Mull

Looking over this list, I really like most of the books I read this year. All of the Brandon Mull and Rick Riordan ones were great. Lemony Snicket was good ol' Lemony Snicket. The Pseudonymous Bosch ones were all pretty kid-ish, but amusing reads nonetheless. Don Quixote was awesome. Winnie the Pooh was delightful. Entwined was one I just found on the shelf of the library that turned out to be a surprise favorite (it's a retelling of the fairy tale "The Twelve Dancing Princesses").

I read "The Secret Garden" and "A Little Princess" for the first times this year. I've seen the movies of course, and it was really interesting to see how they compare. To be honest, I don't really like The Secret Garden movie, but (surprise, surprise!) the book was way better. I still like the A Little Princess movie better than the book, but the book was good too. The thing that surprised me most with that book was that the book and the movie had two different overall messages - the movie's message is about how we all have inherent worth; the book's message was about always trying to do the right thing even in hard circumstances. Both are good messages.

So yeah! That's what I read this last year. :)

Monday, October 12, 2015

Free October 2015 General Conference Printables - Saturday Morning

Last weekend our family got to stay home all weekend in our pajamas, hang out, and watch General Conference. General Conference is a big, twice-yearly meeting that our whole church has, where we get to listen to the church leadership speak. People go to it in person, or you can watch it at our church meetinghouses, or on TV, or on the internet. I always find it so inspiring and uplifting. I love General Conference weekend for the spirit that I feel.

This year I decided that I wanted to make printables/picture quotes/memes/whatever you call them of some of my favorite quotes from conference. I'll be doing them in batches; today's quotes all come from the Saturday morning session of conference. Feel free to pin/print/share these!

'God
 will take you as you are at this very moment and begin to work with 
you. All you need is a willing heart, a desire to believe, and trust in 
the Lord.' - Dieter F. Uchtdorf

"God will take you as you are at this very moment and begin to work with you. All you need is a willing heart, a desire to believe, and trust in the Lord."
- President Dieter F. Uchtdorf

'If we look at ourselves only 
through our mortal eyes, we may not see ourselves as good enough. But 
our Heavenly Father sees us as who we truly are and who we can become. 
He sees us as His sons and daughters, as beings of eternal light with 
everlasting potential and with a divine destiny.' - Dieter F. Uchtdorf

"If we look at ourselves only through our mortal eyes, we may not see ourselves as good enough. But our Heavenly Father sees us as who we truly are and who we can become. He sees us as His sons and daughters, as beings of eternal light with everlasting potential and with a divine destiny." 
- President Dieter F. Uchtdorf

'Make no mistake about it: the Lord directs His Church through living prophets and apostles.' - Elder M. Russell Ballard

"Make no mistake about it: the Lord directs His Church through living prophets and apostles."
- Elder M. Russell Ballard

'Like
 the clay on the potter’s wheel, our lives must be centered with 
exactness in Christ if we are to find true joy and peace in this life.' - Elder Richard J. Maynes

"Like the clay on the potter’s wheel, our lives must be centered with exactness in Christ if we are to find true joy and peace in this life."
- Elder Richard J. Maynes

'If we earnestly appeal to God, He takes us as we are—and makes us more than we ever imagined.' - Sister Neill F. Marriott

"If we earnestly appeal to God, He takes us as we are—and makes us more than we ever imagined."
- Sister Neill F. Marriott

'When we 
offer our broken heart to Jesus Christ, He accepts our offering. He 
takes us back. No matter what losses, wounds, and rejection we have 
suffered, His grace and healing are mightier than all.' - Sister Neill F. Marriott

"When we offer our broken heart to Jesus Christ, He accepts our offering. He takes us back. No matter what losses, wounds, and rejection we have suffered, His grace and healing are mightier than all."
- Sister Neill F. Marriott

'As
 we travel along that strait and narrow path, the Spirit continually 
challenges us to be better and to climb higher. The Holy Ghost makes an 
ideal traveling companion. If we are humble and teachable, He will take 
us by the hand and lead us home.' - Elder Larry R. Lawrence

"As we travel along that strait and narrow path, the Spirit continually challenges us to be better and to climb higher. The Holy Ghost makes an ideal traveling companion. If we are humble and teachable, He will take us by the hand and lead us home."
 - Elder Larry R. Lawrence

'A perfect
 time to ask, 'What lack I yet?' is when we take the sacrament...In this
 reverent atmosphere, as our thoughts are turned heavenward, the Lord 
can gently tell us what we need to work on next.' - Elder Larry R. Lawrence

"A perfect time to ask, “What lack I yet?” is when we take the sacrament...In this reverent atmosphere, as our thoughts are turned heavenward, the Lord can gently tell us what we need to work on next."
- Elder Larry R. Lawrence

'My dear 
brothers and sisters, life is not easy, nor was it meant to be. It is a 
time of testing and trial. Like the old ships in Bristol Harbor, there 
will be times when the tide goes out and it seems as if everything in 
this world keeping us afloat disappears. We may hit the bottom and even 
be tipped over on our sides. Amid such trials, I promise you that living
 and maintaining temple-worthy lives will hold together all that really 
matters. The sweet blessings of peace, happiness, and joy, along with 
the blessings of eternal life and celestial glory with our Heavenly 
Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, will be realized.' - Elder Quentin L. Cook

"My dear brothers and sisters, life is not easy, nor was it meant to be. It is a time of testing and trial. Like the old ships in Bristol Harbor, there will be times when the tide goes out and it seems as if everything in this world keeping us afloat disappears. We may hit the bottom and even be tipped over on our sides. Amid such trials, I promise you that living and maintaining temple-worthy lives will hold together all that really matters. The sweet blessings of peace, happiness, and joy, along with the blessings of eternal life and celestial glory with our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, will be realized."
- Elder Quentin L. Cook

'Happiness in this life and happiness in the life to come are interconnected by righteousness.' - Elder Quentin L. Cook

"Happiness in this life and happiness in the life to come are interconnected by righteousness." 
- Elder Quentin L. Cook

Many of the graphics I used were from Designs by Miss Mandee, We Lived Happily Ever After, Mandy Art Market, and Angie Makes.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Days 14 and 15: Coming home

Saturday August 8 was the last day of me and Jason's vacation that we spent with everyone else. We woke up in Lisbon that day, took a flight by ourselves that afternoon back to Madrid, then the next morning took a flight (technically two flights) back to North Carolina. Everyone else spent the full day in Lisbon on Saturday, flew back to Madrid on Sunday, and then flew to the US on Monday.

So, after we had breakfast on Saturday morning, we called David (our taxi driver who had taken us to Sintra the day before) and asked him to take us to the National Tile Museum. Painted tiles have long been a traditional Portuguese staple of decoration (both interior and exterior), and it was cool to see the history of them and the way the styles evolved as time went on.

The area where they were restoring the tiles
The whole building had original old painted tiles along the walls, in addition to all the tiles they had brought in once the building became a museum
Actually one of the older pieces; I liked it because it's kind of optical illusion-y
They had a really decked out chapel in the building too. (The museum is housed in an old convent). I really liked the slanted windows in the outer chapel.




Can you tell what these are?
Grasshoppers!
And butterflies!
If I recall correctly, this one's from around the art deco period (1920s).

On the third floor, they had an amazing, huge tile display of what Lisbon looked like before the huge 1755 earthquake. This tile painting of the city was done before the earthquake (well, the earthquake, the fire, and the tsunami. It was a bad day for Lisbon.) wiped out pretty much everything.


After the tile museum David picked us up again and we asked him to take us to the Castelo de Sao Jorge, which was supposed to have nice views of the city. As he was driving us there, he told us that since it was Saturday it was a big market day. We soon saw what he meant; we started passing tons of stalls and blankets people had set up that were selling all sorts of stuff. Some tables looked like garage sales; others looked more professional.

David told us that the castle was only a couple of blocks away, and he could drop us off here at the market if we wanted and pick us up at the castle when we were done. And we said yes, because the market looked fun. And it was! Jason and I got a couple little toys for Kiddo1 and Kiddo2 (this little leather coin purse that looked like a mouse and this cool little leather lobster) and Alyse and Tanner got some "gypsy baby pants" (as she calls them) for Nephew and their baby girl on the way.

As we were walking up to the castle we saw these cute little ceramic houses on the side of a building:


When we got up to and inside the castle walls, and saw how long the line was for tickets to go up into the castle itself and its courtyards, we realized there was no way we were going to have enough time to go in. (Jason and I had to leave early in the afternoon to catch our flight back to Madrid.) So, we got ice cream instead. And it was delicious.

I got hazelnut. It was hands down the best ice cream of the trip. Everyone else's was really good, too. It was made locally in Lisbon.

After our ice cream David picked us up again and took us back to our hotel. We all had lunch at the hotel restaurant; Jason and I wolfed down our food so that we could get to the airport in time. Jason and I said goodbye to everybody, got our bags, and met David outside (once again, haha) so that he could take us to the airport.

Our flight to Madrid went smoothly. Once we were settled back in our hotel (the same one we had stayed at the first time we were in Madrid) we went out to find somewhere to eat dinner. We eventually settled on a sidewalk cafe on one of the corners of the Parque del Buen Retiro, right by the Puerta de Alcala.


After dinner we walked down one of the main streets in Madrid again, looking for goodies to get the girls and enjoying the sites. Jason (who's more adventurous than me) took us into one of the side neighborhoods, where we got some more ice cream before heading back to the hotel.


The next morning we had breakfast at the hotel, left at 9 for the airport, and got on our plane to come home. We watched "Tomorrowland" before the screens we were watching stopped working. The flight attendants tried to reset our screens like three times (ours were the only ones on the whole plane not working - lucky us) but they just wouldn't work.

Our flight landed in Atlanta, where we transferred to another plane that flew us to Raleigh. And there, at the airport to meet us, were Kiddo1 and Kiddo2! It was so, so, so wonderful to see them. We were so happy, and so were they.

Tomorrow (or the next day) I'll post all the things they got up to with Grandma while we were away.

And that was our huge, once-in-a-lifetime Spain trip!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Day 13: Sintra

On our first (and me and Jason's only) full day in Lisbon, we took a trip a little bit out of the city to visit the enchanting area of Sintra.

Sintra is just north of Lisbon, and its location (in the Sintra mountains) gives it a noticeably cooler climate than Lisbon itself. For this reason many Portuguese royals used to live here in the summer months to escape the heat. It is a beautiful place, and there are a lot of cool old mansions and manor houses with amazing gardens and grounds.

We were originally planning to take taxis to the train station and take the train up to Sintra, but the doorman at our hotel explained to us that with our group size (seven adults and two kids) it would be cheaper to take a big taxi (that could fit all of us) the whole way up to Sintra, and it could drive us around while we were there. So that's what we did, and it was perfect. I'm so grateful our doorman suggested it; there's no way we could have fit as much into our day if we had to transfer from taxi to train to taxi/buses to get to each place (like we were planning), and on top of that our taxi driver recommended this awesome Moorish castle we weren't planning to see and got us to the front of this super long line at the Palacio de Pena.

Our taxi driver's name was David, and he had this really big taxi (like a big van) that we all fit in to. He was great; we all really liked David. He drove us up to Sintra and the first thing we did was stop in the little town of Sintra. It was charming. We spent about a half hour there, exploring the city center and some of the side streets.

Views from the terrace in front of the Sintra National Palace
Part of the town center
This is the Sintra National Palace, located right in the middle of town. We didn't go inside because reviews online say it's kind of boring inside, but it did have these two cool, weird white chimney things that you can see sticking up in the back.

From the town we drove up the mountain to the Castelo dos Mouros (Castle of the Moors), some really awesome old ruins originally built by the Moors in the 10th century. They were so cool; we took a path through the (beautiful) forest up to the ruins, where we got to climb and walk along the wall that overlooks all the land below. The wall looked (to us) like the great wall of China. It was the great wall of Portugal, I guess. :)


Alyse and I went one way along the wall, leading us up to the keep and then down through some forest into the courtyard, and everybody else went the other way along the wall, leading them up to an even taller peak.

Up the way Alyse and I went:


It was incredibly windy on the top of the wall; I took off my hat so it wouldn't blow away, and I'm glad I did, because I actually did see another man's hat blow away just a couple minutes later.

This is how windy it was.

The views from the wall and the wall itself were amazing.

You can see here on an even higher peak the Palacio de Pena, the place we went after the Moorish castle.

Walking back down the hill from the keep:


After we had explored the whole castle, we walked back down through the forest to where David was waiting with the taxi. From the Moorish Castle he drove us to the Palacio da Pena. This was a palace that was built in the 1800s, so there's not much history behind it (relatively speaking), but it's a really cool building and a fun place to see.


We ate lunch here and then explored the palace, seeing the outside first and then going inside.

One of the ceilings on the inside. They were all elaborate.

We liked the palace itself a lot, but there were way too many people there. It was the only place on our whole vacation where I felt my enjoyment was impacted by the crowds. Just too many people! But the palace itself was cool, and we got some really cute little toys for Kiddo1 and Kiddo2 in the gift shop. We got them this jumpy bug toy and a couple of little animal whistles.

We had taken the Palacio's little shuttle bus to get from the grounds entrance to the the palace at the top of the hill (it would have been a long uphill walk), but Jason, Tanner, and I felt up to walking down the hill at the end. So we did, while the others waited for the bus to take them down. When we reached the bottom of the hill Jason, Tanner, and I walked around a bit in a little garden down there. And as we were walking, Jason and I found a tiny pond. And in the pond, there were lillypads. And sitting on top of two of the lillypads there were frogs. Frogs! Sitting on the lillypads! Like all of the childhood books! I was super excited. We tried to take a picture, but by the time we got the camera out they had jumped into the pond.

The (now frog-less) lillypads

When everybody had made it down the hill and we all made it back to the taxi, David drove us to the Quinta da Regaleira, an old estate with amazing grounds. Nephew had fallen asleep on the way over, so Nan stayed in the taxi with him and Niece while the rest of us went into the Quinta da Regaleira.


The grounds at the Quinta da Regaleira were seriously so cool. The paths went all over, up and down and splitting and coming together and even going underground. We found towers to climb and tunnels to explore. The system of tunnels (which were pitch black in some places and only dimly lit by little light cords n others) led us to the bottom of two different wells and out underneath a waterfall.

Me and Jason up in the tower
Behind the waterfall

At the bottom of the "Initiation Well:"


And the bottom of the "Unfinished Well:"


After we'd explored pretty much all over, we came back to the taxi. We found out that Nephew had woken up almost as soon as we'd gone into the grounds. Poor Nan!

Everybody was still feeling up for another site, so we drove to our last place of the day - the park and palace of Monserrate. Again, the grounds were amazing - the grounds of Monserrate are one giant botanical garden. And the palace was amazing too! They're in the process of restoring it (they're almost completely finished) and it is so cool inside. As we walked through the grounds we stopped for some ice cream, made our way to and inside the palace, played on the grass in front of the palace (it was the first lawn in Portugal, and Banks and Tanner were teaching Nephew how to roll down the hill), and then made our way through the rest of the extensive gardens. I think I loved the "fern valley" the most out of all the different areas.


At some point on the vacation, it became a game between Nephew and me for him to grab my nose. Here he is coming to get it:
 

And this same moment from my dad's point of view:


 Inside:


Playing on the lawn:


By this time it was about 6 pm and everybody was worn out. David drove us back to Lisbon, and we stopped at a McDonalds where we picked up food for everyone. We took it back to our hotel and all had dinner in Dad's room, then went up to Alyse and Tanner's room for some card games. They had an awesome room; it had a little sitting area that was so cute. I don't have a picture of it, but Alyse does, and when she blogs about it I'll link to it. That's where we played cards, until we all got tired enough to call it a night. :)