Monthly Archives: September 2011

To The Lady Searching For Preschool Octopus Crafts…

…who keeps looking faithfully and finding only my blog: I am sorry. I don’t have many of those around here. I mostly write about books and cats, so I’m not sure why a search engine keeps sending you here with frequency. But because I admire your dedication, I offer you this…

Amanda’s Octopus Craft, For All Ages.

What you’ll need:

Washable paint, markers, and/or crayons…

and colorful paper.

Also, you will obviously need a safe place to do this craft, like a table you don’t mind getting dirty, and adults to supervise. I did it on the floor because I’m an adult and my carpet already has a large amount of paint on it. But I did still have alert supervision from the Art Cat:

This is what you do: 

Cover the child’s hand thoroughly with the paint color of their choice, like so…

and then make not one but two overlapping handprints on the colored paper of their choice, making sure their thumbs are held closely to the palm of the hand… (this ensures that your octopus has eight legs, not eight normal legs and one little, gimpy leg.)

As you can see in the bottom right corner, two over-lapping handprints looks like an octopus! And as you can see in the top left corner, Art Cat approves of your efforts.

Wait until the paint dries (I blow dried mine to help it along), and then decorate as you wish. I was going to glue googly eyes to mine, but then I realized I was fresh out. But if you have them, that could be a super cute edition. Also, for older-ages, you could add sequins and glitter, or you could even do it on fun-foam instead of construction paper.

Octavian the Octopus, at your service!

For a less-messy alternative, you can trace the hands on a colored piece of paper, help the child cut it out, and then glue it onto a different color of paper. I just thought the paint was way more fun, even though my hand will now be dyed blue for the next several days.

I hope that helps you in your endeavors, Octopus Craft Lady. Happy Crafting!


Filed under Art Projects, Cats, Odds and Ends

27 Years

Once upon a time, my parents were not my parents. Once, twenty-seven years ago, they were just a man and a woman in love who decided to get married.

For twenty-seven years they have loved and laughed, raised their brood, weathered the storms, and through it all, they have always pointed to Christ.

Thanks for being such wonderful parents. But most importantly, thanks for modeling a godly marriage. Thanks for loving each other, for staying together even through the darkest days. Thank you for being honest about your struggles, but thank you also for kissing in front of me and Andrew, even though we thought it was gross.  When we are dancing at our daughter’s wedding, I hope Tyler and I look this happy and in love.

Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad! You are deeply appreciated.

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Filed under Faith, Love & Marriage, Things I'm Thankful For

Wednesday Book Review: A Gaggle of Mini-Reviews

I’ve read all sorts of books: the good, the bad, the great, the ugly, the blah. But this past week I have had zero time to read. Seriously, I’ve read 47 pages in seven days. Pitiful. So I thought I’d give a quick overview of ten or so of the books I’ve already read this year but haven’t reviewed, just in case, you know, you actually want to read one of them someday and need an opinion. Or if I go senile and can’t tell books apart from rocket ships. Either one. (If there’s one on my list that I haven’t listed here but you’re interested in, just let me know and I will make sure to give you my official opinion.) Without further ado, I introduce you to…

Amanda’s I-Was-Too-Busy-and/or-Lazy-to-Read Mini-Review:

Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin: This is historical fiction at it’s best. The story revolves around the facts of what we know for certain about the life of Alice Liddell, the real Alice in Wonderland, and Benjamin fills in the gaps seamlessly without falling into the trap of over-romanticizing. I couldn’t put it down.Verdict: Great

A Jane Austen Education by William Deresiewicz: Jane Austen has millions of devotees around the globe, but William was a reluctant one. He always thought Austen and her romances were a bit ridiculous, until he started reading her in earnest on the eve of writing his Master’s thesis. This book was excellently written and intelligently conceived. I genuinely learned a lot from this book,  not only about Austen, but about growing up and living with integrity. Verdict: Excellent

Angry Conversations With God by Susan E. Isaacs: Susan is a successful actor and comedian…almost. She’s also a very dedicated Christian….mostly. It’s not that she’s not talented or doesn’t love God, she’s just still in the process of figuring several things out. And some of those things make her angry, so she decides to write a sketch where she takes God to couples counseling. This hilarious book is what ensues. Verdict: Hilarious 

Anonymous by Alicia Britt Chloe: We all have bare, bleak times. Times when we’re waiting, or growing silently in the corner like a tree in winter. What is the purpose of these quiet times? What was the use of Jesus’ quiet time in the thirty years between Christmas and when he turned the water into wine? With deep insight and wisdom, Chloe discusses these times on anonymity. If you read it, you will be changed. Verdict: Powerful

Bittersweet and Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist: I really enjoyed both of these books, one which is about being thankful for the small things in the happy season of life, and one is about learning to still be thankful when life is painful. Niequist has a conversational, engaging, and artful way of writing that was really enjoyable. Verdict: Excellent

The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad: Seirstad spent a year living with a wealthy Afghani book merchant and his family. This is their story. It is enlightening and moving, and I enjoyed every page of the journey into a culture so very opposed to my own. Verdict: Excellent

Bossypants by Tina Fey: I heard all this nonsense from reviewers about how they expected more from Fey than this. Psshhh. Please, stop taking yourself so seriously. It’s Tina Fey writing funny stuff, I don’t really care if I learn anything. It’s easy to read and it will make you laugh a whole lot, what more could you possible want? Verdict: Hilarious

Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero: This was the first book I finished this year, and it had a deep impact on me. It discusses the need to take care of yourself emotionally in order to be truly healthy spiritually. What I learned in the book enabled me to be able to start saying “no” sometimes , and it helped me identify some of my weak areas. Verdict: Powerful

The Girl With Glass Feet by Ali Shaw: The premise of this book intrigued me. It seemed to be a less romance-y version of Magical Realism-a genre I adore, which it was, but not in a good way.  This book was haunting and the language was beautiful, but the story was rather sad, and not in a Hemingway-and-Fitzgerald way, in a depressing way. There was a film of gloom over the whole endeavor that made it hard to enjoy even thought it was well written. Verdict: Okay

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain: I had read about Hemingway’s’ first wife, Hadley, before in passing, but I very much enjoyed getting to know her in a more in-depth fashion. McLain also manages to give the book the same texture as a Hemingway story while still retaining her own style. I recommend this book to any literary buff. Verdict: Excellent

Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott: Anne is a controversial writer. She’s a Christian, but one with very liberal parameters. She and I don’t agree on a lot of the finer points, but she treats every subject with such honesty and openness, that I wish she were my kooky aunt. I wish I could just hang out with her and talk about life, even if we don’t agree on everything, because I know she’d be honest, and I know she’d love me anyway. Verdict: Refreshing

The Wilder Life by Wendy McClure: The Little House on the Prairie books were McClure’s favorites as a child; now an adult, and a children’s book editor, she decides to trace their steps. From churning butter the way Laura would have in her own living room to exploring every homestead site mentioned in the books (and a few that were not), this book is a fun ride for any Laura Wilder fan. (I would caution, however, that this is definitely an adult book. Even if Little House is little cousin Suzie’s favorite series ever, don’t share this memoir until she’s at least in high school.) Verdict: Fun


Filed under Book Reviews, Books, Wednesday Book Review

Stories From Inside A Whale, French Food, and Other Micsellanious Updates

Just a quick update, since I neglected you so unjustly this weekend.

The fair on Saturday went really well. Thanks to everyone who prayed! We shared Jesus through story with fifty or so kids, and several prayed to receive Christ! It was such a sweet experience. I’ve never really thought of Jonah and the Whale as an evangelical story before, and I was really impressed with how they pulled it off. And, of course, the kids were a ton of fun, as kids are prone to be.

We told our stories inside this air conditioned plaster Whale, because we told the story of Jonah and the Whale, duh. Some of the comments we got from the kids were:

  • “If the whale was air-conditioned, why was Jonah complaining?”- Jocelyn, fives years old
  • “Is this a real whale? Did they catch it and stuff it like my dad does deer?” – Emily, six years old
  • And my favorite, “Whales have nothing to do with Jesus. Jesus would not have been swallowed, he would have ridden the whale like a surfboard.”- David, seven-ish years old

Clever, those kids. Also, one of the kids called me a heathen because I’m not Catholic, and stormed out. All in a days work.

After my story shift ended, Emily and I wandered the fair for several hours. We basically watched the pregnant cow exhibit and ate a ridiculous amount of fair food, which included gelato, some heavenly cheese fries, and a huge plate of ribs and corn on the cob. In order to properly enjoy our ribs, we hid at a dark picnic table and unleashed our inner-man. Seriously, we scarfed these babies messily and without shame. Or at least a minimal amount of shame, which we chose to ignore.

No shame!

More recently, we just got back last night from an overnight trip to San Diego. It was our first time there, and we loved it! We stayed in a suite at the Andaz Hotel in the Gaslamp Quarter, which was pretty legit.

The Living Room

Big, Comfy Bed. You can't see it, but there's another flat screen TV in front of the bed.

We had dinner Sunday night at the Cafe Chloe, a little French Cafe in downtown San Diego. It was incredible! I had some superb French onion soup, mussels in a cream sauce, and a fabulous pistachio bread pudding. It was all wonderful, but what was brilliant about my main course was the unusual choice to put shoestring french fries in with the mussels, which I nicknamed Americana Chic in my head. They soaked up the sauce and were waaaay too delicious for words. I am drooling just thinking about it. I wanted to take a picture, but we were with a few people I’d never met before, and Tyler made me promise not to do anything embarrassing. I figured taking pictures of each course as they came would not be considered normal, so I abstained. (This is also why I only named the seafood-and-french-fry dish in my head and not out loud.)

*Sigh* Now that I got my hopes up only to have them dashed, you know this legendary sushi is all I want to eat.

We spent Monday driving around, through Balboa Park and around Coronado Island, and being generally touristy. Our friend Kristen used to live in San Diego, and she really talked up Sushi Deli. Unfortunately, they closed fifteen minutes before we got there. My sushi-loving self we rather sad, but oh well. It gives me an excuse to go back!

And now it’s back to the daily grind. This week is going to be busy. I’m working my usual schedule, and building one of my larger sets ever…in five days. Am I crazy, you ask? It’s looking like that is the case.

Also, I would be remiss if I failed to mention that today is the Birthday of not one but two of my lovely sister-in-laws! Happy Birthday to Charity…

Charity is the beautiful one looking at the camera, in case you were wondering. 🙂

and to Allyson…

Sorry for stealing these pictures from your Facebook, Allyson!

We love you two an awful lot! And in typical Stroud fashion, your gifts will be late. But I bought them early, so that must count for something! Have a wonderful day, mes soeurs!

And have a wonderful day everyone else, too! I know I will. Especially because I got to skip Monday for this work week. No case of The Monday’s for me! Woo hoo!

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Filed under California Dreamin', Odds and Ends, The Monday's, Travels

le cinquième CATURDAY

Since I know you’re only friends with me for my cat, you get two cat posts in a row! You lucky ducks. And lucky Cambria. She basks in the fame. In fact, I think it’s getting to her head a little bit. A few posts on a blog, and BOOM, she thinks she’s the Queen of England. Or at least the Queen of the Apartment. (You know, like that new Bruno Mars/Eminem song, “Had a dream I was king queen, I woke up, still king queen.” No? Not feeling it? Okay. I’ll move on.) Now she thinks she can sit wherever she likes. Like on the bath mat when I’m about to shower…

"Dis texture is pleasing to meh. Ai shall stay."

Or on the bed when I’m trying to make it…

This picture is clearly post-make, but you can still see how in the way she was. Poor throw pillows and stuffed alligator, there was no room for them because someone was in the way...

but she cares not. She licks her paw in your general direction, you son of a silly person. Now go away, or she shall taunt you a second time.

Or on the bag that she pulled out of the plastic bag sleeve, out of the kitchen, and onto her favorite bit of carpet…

"Tha's right. Ima queen. Ai do what Ai wants."

Please ignore my piles of books in the background. I've run out of shelf space, and now they live in stacks on the floor. I suppose it's time to invest in another shelf.

Why do I put up with such ridiculous behavior, you ask? Because she’s a cat and her brain isn’t very large, that’s why. And because at the end of the day, she does stuff like this with me…

She lies on my lap and purrs happily while I read. (Yes, I’m using a neck pillow. They’re crazy comfortable. Don’t judge me.) And she purrs and meows whenever I get home like she’s missed me so much she couldn’t stand it. And she keeps my feet warm at night. And she wakes us up in the mornings with a snuggle, like she missed us all night and is excited we’re awake again. And she does funny things like try to catch raindrops as they fall down the window. And one time when I cried, she licked away my tears. It was probably just because they were salty, but I’m going to pretend it’s because she knew and cared that I was upset.

So yeah, my cat is a total goober. But I wouldn’t change her for anything.

(Oh no. That got unexpectedly sentimental and gooey, which can only mean that this week is going to get worse very quickly. I apologize in advance for any hormonal and overly emotional outpourings that happen over the course of the next several days. It’s not my fault, and I don’t like it either. I promise to return to normal as soon as I can stuff the hormone monster back into her closet, which could take a while. That joker is feisty.)

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Filed under Cambria, Cats, Caturday

“Babies Are Almost As Cute as Cats.”

Yes, my husband really said that.

Tyler, while holding a cat and looking at a baby: “Amanda, which do you think is cuter, babies or cats?”

A: “Babies. Duh.”

T: “I agree. Mostly. I mean, babies are almost as cute as cats. Wait. Reverse that.”

The margin is slim. And it may depend on the baby, and the cat. And the day. Don’t get me wrong. I love babies. But they cry and poop. Cats poop too, but you don’t have to clean it up nearly as often, and they potty-train faster. (I can totally hear my mother-in-law saying, “uncouth,” to herself right now. Sorry, mom! 🙂 ) They both spit up, so they’re even there. And most babies aren’t really that cute at first, but kittens are instantly cute.

What? Don’t act like you’re offended. You know I’m only saying what everyone else is thinking. Newborns and little old men look exactly alike. Plus I already said that babies win, so I am exempt from your rage.

I’ll show you what I mean. I think it’s time for a friendly little game of

Baby vs. Cat.

Round 1:


Josiah, my favorite mini-human, is getting so big! He now weights more than Cambria, my favorite non-person. And he still smells exactly like a baby should:)

Cat: And the winner is… Baby! But it’s close. I mean, look at that little paw, and that little nose. You know you debated for a second.

Round 2:


Readers, meet Max, Josiah and Co.'s pet fat cat, and Tyler's second favorite cat in the world. He is fat, and fluffy, and he thinks he rules the world.

And the winner is…Cat! Because he is doing a trick! And that tail is so fluffy! I kid, I kid! The baby still wins. I mean seriously, look at those lips! *melt*

Round 3:



And the winner is…Tyler! Seriously, could that man be any cuter? He likes cats and babies??! Where do I sign up?

(Dear Tyler,

I apologize in advance for calling you cute. Please forgive me. I will make dinner tonight to make up for it. And I’ll let you watch football without any girly comments about the color or style of the uniforms.

Love, Wife.)

So babies win. Or at least Josiah wins, always. Cambria is trying to say that since we treat her like our baby she technically wins because she fits both categories. Nice try, fur ball. You’ll have to excuse her whinyness. She’s an only child, and doesn’t get many opportunities to share or socialize with other kids, so she’s a little selfish sometimes.

ETA: My father made a very valid point when I spoke with him this afternoon. We agreed that cats are cuter for the first month, and then babies win for the rest of their lives. Or at least until they reach the pimply teenage stage, and then cats win again.  And that Tyler only wins if you are me or his mother.

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Filed under Babies, Cambria, Cats, Tyler

In Which I Fail At Adulthood And Write This Blog Instead.

I am reverting right now and acting like a total college student, which is to say that I have about 10,000 things to do today, you know, boring stuff like shower/pay bills/work/clean my kitchen/write something with real meaning, but instead I’m surfing Facebook and taking pictures of the cat while she plays with my shoes. Consider me writing this blog the official equivalent of skipping class. Ooops! Adulthood fail.

Since I am failing so magnificently, I might as well tell you what’s on my mind…

1: I really need to re-color my hair. The red of summer has turned into a rather streaky version of dirty blond, and it needs to go away. I want to go a darker brunette with some black, Tyler thinks I should do red again. It’s a stalemate. What are your opinions? I’ll do anything but straight-up blond or an un-natural color, like green. Help! I am truly, sincerely asking for opinions. I’m so indecisive.

2: I still have not seen The Help, but I really want to . The only problem is, Tyler has zero interest in seeing it, and all my friends I have asked have seen it already. Even my mom has seen it. I reeeeeally want to know what all the fuss is about! Who will save me from my pop culture crisis??! This is my overly dramatic way of saying if we live in the same town and you have either not seen The Help or wouldn’t mind seeing it again, please contact me ASAP. I will even buy you popcorn in reward for your charity toward a poor, socially awkward girl like me who has no one to got o the movies with.

3: Our second week of small groups last night was a success! We have an interesting mix of people- young marrieds, engaged, single, parents, soon-to-be parents-but we seem to blend really well. Our last small group this past spring was such an amazing experience- we truly met some of our best friends through it- that I was a little worried: would I ever be able to love another small group as much? My fears were misplaced. These people are awesome! I love the candor and openness everyone shares with. We’re going through the book Chazown (pronounced something like khaw-zone. Kind of like calzone without the l.) by Craig Groeschel, which is all about finding God’s vision for your life. I had gone through it quickly a few months ago as part of my church internship, but I’m excited to go through it more slowly and along side others. Tyler and I have already had some great conversations because of it.

I’ve never been one of those people who makes a vision statement for my life or who has had an over-arching goal in mind. I’m a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of girl. If I had to boil it all down to defined goals, I’d say my goals are to love God, show His love to people, and be a good wife and mother. I think those are great goals but there are a plethora of way to achieve them, and I’ve quickly realized that I need focus. Last night, one of the things we talked about was how having the focus of a clear-cut chazown would simplify making decisions. If I already know that God’s will is for me to carry out this vision, to asses a choice, all I need to do is decide if it fits with-in my life’s mission. No? Then we move on. Yes? Then we pray about it. That’s so much simpler than the agonizing I’ve done in the past! And simplifying life, living with purposeful focus, would undoubtedly lead to increased peace and contentment, not to mention confidence.

One of the passages from the reading that stuck with me this week is this:

“Before God starts something, He is certain of the outcome. And God’s map of history includes a unique plan for your life. (Psalm 139:13-16)…God created you with a divine undertaking in mind. Before you were born, God knew you. And knew what He wanted your life to be like. That’s why God calls us to live on purpose, keeping the end in view. And what’s more, He invites us to seek Him in order to learn what His perfect plan is for our lives. Then, with that plan in mind, we can reach His our our greatest dreams. Anything less in a mistake, a lie, and a ripoff. ” -page 7 (emphasis mine)

I’m not willing to settle for a mediocre life. My Father created the universe, why should I ever settle for a lie, or even worse, boring?! I’m excited to see what the coming weeks hold. This small group is sure to be an adventure!

4: Speaking of boring, I have realized that I must be the most boring person to follow on instagram or twitter. All I ever post are pictures of my cat, books, and the occasional oddball like this:

This is my Chazown reading buddy, Eddie the Book Monster

5: I’m pretty excited for this weekend! We’re taking a mini vacay to San Diego! We’ll be traveling down Sunday after church and staying all day Monday. The high is supposed to be 73 while we’re there, and, obviously, there will be beach. Color me excited!

6: Also, the Fair started this week. My friend Emily is a missionary here in town with an orginization called Child Evangelism Fellowship. Every year, they set up a booth where kids can play games and hear a story about Jesus, and every year children give their hearts to Him. Please pray with me for Emily and all her volunteers! The days can be very long and hot, but the work is so worth it!

7: And finally, for those of you who have stuck with me this long, I present you with this gift:

An early Caturday picture of a very sleepy Cambria, as a reward for your patience with this ironically un-focused post.

And now, I really do have to go shower and be a responsible adult. A girl can only use dry shampoo so many days in a row before it becomes socially unacceptable, and smelly. Wish me luck!

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Filed under Books, Cambria, Chazown, Faith, Odds and Ends, Travels