2018 Reading Challenge, Part 2

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Since my friends and I are getting ready to read and discuss books recommended by people with great taste for our next meeting, I thought I would give an update on the books we have read for the 2018 Reading Challenge. I always enjoy finding out what my friends choose for the different categories. I think they all have great taste, so I hope to find a good book to read for the next meeting among the books they have read.

June: a memoir, biography, or work of creative nonfiction

  • Looking for Calvin and Hobbes (mine)
  • As You Wish (everyone in my book club has read this one now)
  • Percy Jackson’s Guide to the Greek Gods
  • Never Give In

July: a book of poetry, a play, or a collection of essays

  • We all read The Importance of Being Earnest and watched the movie version featuring Colin Firth.

August: a book by a favorite author

  • Fairest by Gail Carson Levine (mine)
  • At the Alter by L.M. Montgomery
  • Chalice by Robin McKinley
  • The Hunger Games
  • Origin by Dan Brown
  • Sockeye County Briefs

September: a banned book

  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (mine)
  • Little Black Sambo
  • Fahrenheit 451
  • The Blue Castle
  • Bridge to Terabithia

I hope to post the rest of our selections for the 2018 Reading Challenge in January. Since most of the members of my group are moms, we decided to swap out the “a book that’s more than 500 pages” category for one we have enjoyed in the past. I also let whoever hosts the meeting select the group, so we don’t follow Anne’s list in order. For the list of other books my friends and I have read this year, click here. Happy Reading!

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Fossil Identification

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Tomorrow, I will give a presentation at my local library about rocks, fossils, and rock collections. Since I know several people can’t make it to the program, I thought I would share some photos of fossils in my collection to help others identify them. My husband and I started our own collection eight years ago when I took a geology class in college. Hiking around while looking for interesting rocks and fossils became one of our favorite things to do as a free date. Now, our almost 4-year-old has also his own collection of rocks and fossils. Here are some fun ones to look for:

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Crinoid or sea lily stems. This aquatic animal looks a bit like an anemone on a stalk. The stems (pictured above) are easy to find. The tops are much more rare. I found the one on the right while hiking with my husband and his parents in Illinois.

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Brachiopods, shells with two halves, are even more common than crinoid stems. I have found them in several places over the years. The specimens in this photo I found with my family in Madison, Ind. We found several more specimens along the Ohio River and a road cut along the highway.

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Horn coral has a cone-like shape. These samples came from the same road cut near Madison, Ind. This type of coral is the easiest to find.

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Branching coral is the type of coral which usually comes to mind when people think about coral. I didn’t have any specimens of coral until our trip to Southeast Indiana last year.

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Colonial coral forms with what looks like a repeating pattern. The piece in the right corner is one of my favorite fossils. It looks like the pattern on Petoskey stones, which are common in Michigan.

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Sponges can look a lot like colonial coral, but they usually have a taller shape. I think I found all of these specimens in my uncle-in-law’s driveway.

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Trilobites were bottom feeders in ancient seas. They were arthropods, which means they were invertebrates with exoskeletons and are related to other crustaceans. These are by far my favorite type of fossil. The two samples in the middle I borrowed from a friend to take photos for my presentation. The other two I purchased from an antique store and a rock shop in western Indiana. I really want to find some trilobite fossils on my own someday.

I hope these photos encourage you to go out and find your own fossils. While looking for fossils, please be aware of who owns the property where you are looking. In Indiana, it is illegal to dig for fossils on public land. Many state parks across the country have rules against taking fossils out of the park. Happy hunting!

Review: The Librarian of Auschwitz

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The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe earned the first five star rating from me in a while. This book is so hauntingly beautiful. It novelizes the brave actions of Dita Krauz and other Holocaust victims who wanted to continue the education of children in some of the worst conditions. Dita, just 14 during her time at Auschwitz, became the keeper of the forbidden books the teachers at the family camp used for their lessons.

Some reviews I read of this book says it can be difficult to follow when listening to the audiobook. I read a physical copy and didn’t have this problem. The book does jump around a bit with flashbacks into Dita’s past and between other people, but I think this mimics the broken part humanity can take when it turns from God.

Some quotes from the book I found powerful include:

“It wasn’t an extensive library. In fact, it consisted of eight books, and some of them were in poor condition. But they were books. In this incredibly dark place, they were a reminder of less somber times, when words rang out more loudly than machine guns.”

“We look at the Nazis with their modern weaponry and their shiny uniforms, and we think they are powerful, invincible even. Don’t be deceived: There is nothing inside those shiny uniforms. They’re just an outer shell. They’re nothing. We’re not interested in shining on the outside. We want to shine on the inside. That’s what will give us victory in the end. Our strength isn’t in uniforms — it’s in faith, pride, and determination.”

“Our hatred is a victory for them.”

“The Nazis can strip us of our homes, our belongings, our clothes, and even our hair, but no matter how much they take away from us, they can’t remove our hope. It’s ours. We can’t lose it.”

2018 Reading Challenge, Part 1

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Every year, Anne over at Modern Mrs Darcy puts together a reading challenge. My friends and I meet once a month as a book club to discuss our selections for the categories. I blogged about our choices every month for the first year, but I stopped doing that after my second son was born.

When I looked at last year’s categories, I couldn’t remember which books I had read. This made me sad. I decided to start recording our selections again. My friends and I take turns selecting the categories and hosting the discussion, so we don’t usually line up with Anne’s selections. I also switched out a couple of categories I knew would be difficult for some people in the group to do (such as the 600+ pages category). Here is what we have read so far this year…

January: a book by an author of different ethnicity or religion

  • The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf (mine)
  • Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
  • When Dimple Met Rishi
  • How God Shows Up
  • Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer
  • The Diary of Hannah Callender Sansom
  • Everything, Everything
  • Last Chance to See
  • Night
  • Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus

Febraray: a classic you’ve been meaning to read

  • Sense and Sensibility (mine)
  • Mansfield Park
  • A Severe Mercy
  • Animal Farm
  • Murder on the Orient Express
  • Great Expectations

March: a book recommended by a librarian or bookseller

  • Illuminae (mine)
  • First and Then
  • We Were Liars
  • Hello Universe
  • My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry
  • The Keeper of Lost Causes

April: a book you have read at least once

  • The Paper Magician series books 1-3 (mine)
  • The Magician’s Ward (mine)
  • A Wrinkle in Time
  • The Dragon Hoard
  • The Initiate
  • The Testing trilogy
  • Little House on the Prairie
  • Murder Must Advertise

May: a book you can read in a day (I read SO MANY for this one)

  • The Plastic Magician (mine)
  • Star Bell (mine)
  • The Pit Dragon Chronicles books 1-3– Dragon’s Blood, Heart’s Blood, A Sending of Dragons (mine)
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians series books 1-5 (mine)
  • Aru Shah and the End of Time (mine)
  • Fairest by Marissa Meyer
  • Follow Me Back
  • The Paper Magician
  • Nadya Starlung & The Cloudship Rescue
  • Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place book 6
  • Beauty by Robin McKinley
  • Bluebloods
  • Sockeye County Shorts by Jerusha Jones

I always enjoy getting together with my friends to see the different books they read for the same category. This provides a great way to get recommendations on what to read next. Some of the books I read for this book club are ones my friends read for different categories. Let me know if you think I should bring back monthly blog posts on what we read for the Reading Challenge, or if I should just give occasional updates like this one. Happy reading friends!

Nature Collection Displays, Part 2

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Back in December, I wrote about creative ways to display nature collections. I will get to show off these collections and teach a bit about rock collecting at my local library in July. I feel so excited to share my hobby with my community. In preparation for my presentation, I thought I would come up with some more pretty ways to display the rocks and fossils I have collected with my family.

Terrariums have become very popular over the past few years. They are easy to customize with found treasures or souvenirs from travels. I really like this terrarium tutorial from A Beautiful Mess. Elsie picked some beautiful crystals to include in her terrarium. I have tried making terrariums a few times in the past five years, but they have all failed.

I found this terrarium at Aldi a couple of weeks ago for $5. So far, I have managed to keep it alive. I have learned the importance of using a spray bottle to water air plants and succulents. I feel a little annoyed with this one because everything is glued together. This prevents me from switching out the rocks. I may eventually try to pull it apart, but I wanted to make sure I can keep the plants alive first.canva-photo-editor (1)

I also found this plastic hanging terrarium at my Dollar Tree. I want to get an air plant or two for it and find some cool fossils to display in it. If my family and I make it down south for a weekend, we should be able to find some fossils.canva-photo-editor

Pretty glass boxes have also become trendy. I found this pretty brass one on clearance at Meijer this week. Hobby Lobby has also started carrying terrariums. I especially like this one. I hope you have enjoyed seeing some pretty ways to use rocks and other natural elements for decor. canva-photo-editor (2)

The Fantasy Series I Really Wanted To Like

I started reading the Pit Dragon Chronicles back in May. I have two boys, so I want to find good books in several genres to recommend when they become older. I found out about this series by Jane Yolen which has a make protagonist. The boys enjoy some of Yolen’s picture books, and I like some of her other books.

I checked this series out from our local library and started reading. The first book, titled Dragon’s Blood, started out well. The youth Jakkin set up his hiding spot for raising the drain, overcame some obstacles, and stole his dragon. I enjoyed reading about the dragon, but I didn’t enjoy Jakkin’s interactions with the other bond boys. The casual references to prostitution and drug addiction turned me off to the book. I understand these things are likely to develop on a planet populated by the descendants of convicts, but it still made me uncomfortable. The ending came as a bit of a surprise.

I started book two, Heart’s Blood, dragging my feet a bit. The beginning had more of what I liked in the first book: Jakkin interacting with his dragon Heart’s Blood. I appreciated the characters pointing out the flaws of their society, including the bond system, baggeries, and killing healthy dragons to eat them. However, I think the plot wandered around a bit. From the synopsis, I assumed this book would focus on Jakkin rescuing Akki. While this does happen, the book pots in more time discussing politics and following Jakkin and Akki as they flee from the authorities after being falsely accused of a crime.

The third book was my favorite. It focuses on the two young heroes as they continue to hide from the authorities. Heart’s Blood’s babies feature prominently in this book. Jakkin and Akki discover a society of cave dwellers and rescue two new dragons.

This series was originally a trilogy, but a fourth book was added later. I haven’t had a chance to read the fourth one, nor do I feel a great need to continue with the series. I have really wanted to love this series when I started reading it. Overall, I feel disappointed by the series as a whole.

Industrial Style Bookshelves

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After two months of finding time here and there to work on this project, hubby and I finally finished our built-in bookshelves! I have long fantasized about having floor to ceiling bookshelves in my house. We purchased our first house last year, so we finally get to do permanent projects like this.

Our tax return check this year provided some unexpected extra funds. Hubby and I paid off more than $5k of college debt (our three smallest loans), added some money to our emergency fund, and each picked a fun project for the house. I chose to do built-in bookshelves, and he chose a surround sound stereo system and mounting our projector from the ceiling (which we still need to finish).

I became inspired to try using pipe to build bookshelves when I watched this episode of The Weekender on YouTube. Hubby surprised me by jumping on board with this project. He chose the 3/4 in pipes to better hold the weight of our books over time. He chose 2 in thick boards for the same reason. I got the idea to use tube straps to secure the boards to the pipes from a tutorial I watched on This Old House’s YouTube channel.

Hubby helped me paint the wall behind the shelves and the wall next to it. We actually decided to paint the living room white and bought the paint before we moved in last January, but we never actually painted. We still have more of the living room to paint. However, it feels good to have it started.

I changed my mind about painting the one wall behind the shelves white. This wall gets the least amount of natural light in the entire house (excluding inside the furnace closet). Paint color will do little to lighten this space, so I chose a beautiful blue color. The color didn’t turn out quite the color we wanted, but I still enjoy the color.

We experienced a few other hiccups along the way. The two boards I stained first turned out different than the others. The vertical pipes ended up being a fraction of an inch too tall. Menards didn’t have enough pipes in stock. Despite these setbacks, we persevered and completed the project.

I still want to style three shelves a little differently. A few picture books ended up being too big to fit, and I don’t know what to do with them. I need a couple more bookends to hold my books up nicely. These things will come with time.

Enjoy a few close-ups of a few of my favorite things! (Apologies for the poor quality. Like I mentioned earlier, this is a dark part of the house.)

My pretty hardback books and bird collection.

Some rocks and shells hubby and I have collected over the years and my awesome metal dinosaurs.

Hubby’s records and music books.

We ended up having some extra pipes we couldn’t return. I plan on using them to build some shelves in our bathroom and install a shelf in the boys’ closet. I will share when I finish this project.

We did not put our board books on these shelves. My toddler gets them out frequently, and he would probably constantly knock all of the books on the bottom two shelves down if we kept his favorite books with the rest. Both boys also have some special books in their room for calm down time.

I hope you all enjoyed seeing our home library! I plan on sharing more projects soon.

Geode Slice Mobile

We skipped right past spring here in the Midwest. One week, the weather continued in the 40s with the occasional morning snow. The next week, the temperatures jumped into the 70s with mostly sunny days.

This means I have started spending much more time outside with my two young boys. Since we don’t have a fenced in yard, I don’t feel comfortable letting my children play outside by themselves. My oldest son and I enjoyed planting several types of perennial flowers the past few weeks. However, we have run out of good spots (and budget) to keep planting.

To still feel productive, I began taking projects outside to work on. I made a geode slide mobile/wall hanging today with supplies I already had on hand. I purchased a package of geode spices from Amazon with a gift card I received for Christmas. The fishing twine and jewelry wire I had leftover from another project. I found the stick in the woods while on a walk with a friend.

I decided to wrap the geode slices with jewelry wire because I didn’t want to drill into them or make any permanent changes in case I decided to reuse them later. YouTube and Pinterest have many wire wrapping tutorials of better quality than I could put together. I learned how to make wire wrapped pendants several years ago and can’t remember the tutorial I learned from.

It takes just 5-10 minutes to wrap each geode slices with wire. When I finished with them, I just tied everything together with the fishing twine. I plan on hanging this mobile up where light can shine through the geode slices. This method could also be used to make suncatchers for windows or pendants for necklaces.

Easy Cassette Holder Conversion

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I have always enjoyed collecting rocks. Displaying found (and occasionally bought) treasures can become tricky, especially when my three-year-old wants to take them out and put with them. I put together this post: https://marshallsreporterscorner.wordpress.com/2017/12/10/nature-collection-displays/ not too long ago with ways I have displayed and stored nature collections in the past.

However, I have always had my eye on a vintage printer’s tray or one of those cool mountain shelves which have become so popular on Pinterest to display collections. The minimum $25 price tag for such a thing is way out of my budget. When I found this cassette holder at Goodwill for $2.99, I picked it up with the hope of turning it into a rock display.

It sat on the floor of my closet for a few months while I worked on other things. Progress on other projects and spring purging motivated me to finally tackle this DIY. I turned to the wonderful world of Pinterest for inspiration and a possible tutorial for how to convert my cassette holder.

I found this train storage conversion: http://www.upcyclednest.com/diy-train-storage/ and decided to use it. I found hubby’s tin snips and got to work. This project only took 5-15 minutes (small children make it difficult to determine how long it actually takes to do something). I really like the way it turned out.

Now, I just need to find a place to hang it. I may use more of these for storage in the future. Let me know what you would store in an old cassette holder.

The Great Espcape

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Today, I want to to share this short story I wrote nearly three years ago . . .

When my son finally fell asleep for a nap, I felt free to do anything. However, the unwashed dishes and piles of laundry weighed heavily on my sense of obligation. I started by scraping the remains of last night’s meal into the trash. Full again. I sighed and tied up the bag.

As I approached the black trash can at the corner of the porch, I heard a rustle of leaves and a chirping noise coming from out of sight on the right. I carefully approached the trash can. Another rustle of leaves. This time, I could tell they came from near the abandoned blue trash can. Fear of rabid animals and my poor choice of raggedy blue slippers as shoes hastened my retreat indoors.

With the windows open to the fine spring weather, I could still hear rustling leaves and chirping noises. I decided to face the potentially rabid creature rather than face a cranky baby. I gathered my courage and changed my shoes to venture back outside. The chirping noises became more frustrated. Could a bird have gotten trapped? The noises definitely came from the trash can filled with cardboard for car work and dead leaves.

I gently tapped on the trash can and jumped back at the vigorous rustling noises. The animal had definitely fallen into the trash can. I pulled out my phone to ask hubby for advice. Before he could respond, I picked up the blue bin by the handle. I slowly moved it to the grassy area while keeping it at arm’s length. I took a deep breath and gently tipped the can away from me.

Once the can hit the ground, a chipmunk scurried out and dashed for cover. I let my breath out in a sigh of relief. I replaced the trash can in its neglected corner and went back inside. The baby stayed asleep, and I sent my hubby a brief message of victory.

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