November 10, 2014

books: reading to my boys

My boys still like to have me read to them in the evening, and I still enjoy it. I'm sure someday they will decide they are "too old" for that, but recent studies support reading to even these older kids (they are 11 and 13), so I'm going to make the most of it! Here is an update of the books we have enjoyed since my last post on books. (yes, it has been a while, so the list is long!)

Through Forest and Stream by Duane Yarnell: Outdoor adventures of young men at a camp in the mountains competing in a contest. Another great vintage book. Two thumbs up, and it has a fun ending!

The Island Stallion by Walter Farley: I got the kids to let me try this book from the Black Stallion series (I still have the entire series in paperback from my childhood). Told them they'd like it, with all the adventure/exploration of the island. They did. Then we read The Island Stallion's Fury, which takes place back on the island, but was more violent than I remembered and honestly we could have stopped at the first Island Stallion book.

The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pene Du Bois: Andrew had read this in fifth grade. He said we'd like it, and we did. The journey and all the quirky things he discovered on the island were fun to read about. Since then, Steven read it in school for sixth grade this fall.

Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare: Steven read this in fourth grade. He said we'd like it, and we did. Great outdoor adventure/survival story about a boy who is left to fend for himself at the cabin he built with his dad, while his dad travels to bring the rest of their family to their new home. He is helped by a native American boy and his family. Another two thumbs up.

Dive trilogy by Gordon Korman: Got the middle book so we could complete this (we had read #1 a while back). Overall okay story (especially liked the historical connection the teens discovered for a man they had met). I have to admit by the end of the trilogy, more than one of us had nightmares about being underwater.

Everest trilogy by Gordon Korman: Definitely our favorite of the three Gordon Korman trilogies we've read. Follows a group of teens (and all their drama) through a contest to be on an Everest team, and their eventual climb on Everest. Everest is brutal, and this is a great way to experience the adventure without the risk.

Fury Stallion of Broken Wheel Ranch by Albert G. Miller: A classic horse book I hadn't read as a kid. I was glad to read it now, it was a good story about a boy, a wild horse, and a good-hearted rancher. A great read. I discovered there are sequels, I might try to hunt those down.

Cryptid Hunters and Tentacles by Roland Smith: I had picked these up at a garage sale before we moved to Arizona, but we were a bit intimidated by their length (300+ pages each). Good modern youth adventure/action/mystery books that didn't feel as long as they were, they actually read at a good pace. I plan to eventually get the other sequels, trying to decide if we want to also pursue the other series by this author that will tie into the last book.

Life Behind the Wall trilogy by Robert Elmer: Picked this up at a Christian bookstore this summer, just read it this fall (finished last week). I like that this trilogy is published in one huge paperback. Historical fiction about teens living in Berlin at different times in history; starting just before the Berlin Wall went up, and finishing with it coming down. I admit at times it was a bit depressing to read how the people were so deprived and oppressed, knowing this stuff really happened, but it was overall a good read. The teens' determination to act against the wrongs is inspiring, and it is very satisfying how the early stories all come together in the final one.

October 6, 2014

feels like fall

fall leaves in silver and crystal
Suddenly it feels like fall. The sunlight is different. Last week, for the first time in many months, we had a few days that were actually cooler outside than inside. We still have some hot days left, and maybe a few more thunderstorms, but for the most part summer and monsoon season are giving way to autumn. Ah, my favorite time of year! But here, almost any time of year could be my favorite.

Speaking of fall, I have some fall leaves jewelry in my Etsy shop. I love working with the images of real leaves I collected when we lived in Oregon. I often pair the silver with fall-color crystals or natural stone beads, as seen in the examples here.

fall leaves earrings handmade in .999 Fine Silver, with Amber beads

fall leaf pendant with Swarovski crystal (matches earrings at top)

September 15, 2014

monsoon season

thunderhead forming
This is my second monsoon season in Arizona, and I think this one has been much wetter than last year (which around here is a good thing). It raised one of our local lakes by many feet, completely covering all the old water lines we have been able to see ever since we moved here. It is a superior alternative to the long, dark, rainy Northwest winters I was used to. I like the rain, and the thunderstorms are fantastic (something I never thought I'd say, I was scared terrified of the few little thunderstorms we had when I was growing up). And as a bonus, I get to look forward to a cool but sunny winter. A win-win!

During monsoon season, the clouds don't move in from somewhere else, they form here, before your very eyes if you're outside long enough. They create skies that may be gray, but are beautiful in their own way. But don't think the whole season is cloudy; it alternates between this and hot sunny days, which makes for a good variety.

first day of real monsoon clouds this year

monsoon season sky at sunset

another monsoon season sky at sunset

Steven playing in the rain (I joined him after this photo)

August 25, 2014

painting sneak peek

First, I just had to share the photo at left, which captures the temporary green we do get here in Prescott after monsoon season is well underway! The trees leaf out green in the spring of course, but the grass doesn't turn green until August. So different from what I'm used to, but I love it.

Early this summer, I took an inventory of my (very old) paint and such, and placed an order so I could finally get back to painting. It has been far too long since I did an actual painting on canvas, and I didn't want to wait any longer! I have done other types of painting projects in recent years, but painting pictures on canvas is entirely different and probably my favorite art form. You may recall I did some mini watercolor paintings a few summers ago, which you can see here, here, and here, which was a great way to stay connected to painting that year.

I picked out some photos I have taken of scenery around Arizona, and the first I chose to paint is a view from Route 66 in some open land between Seligman and Peach Springs from our road trip last fall (it's not based on the photos I shared in the blog post, it will be something new for you to see). I am working my way down on the canvas, here is a sneak peek at it, showing the sky and distant ridges. The full canvas is 18 x 24 inches. You'll have to wait for a future post to see the rest as it progresses!

work in progress: partial painting by Jennifer Kistler

It is slow going, and now I am waiting for another order that includes a special palette that should keep my paints wet a lot better. I love working in acrylics, but even when sprayed with water daily, my paints (including mixed colors I want to continue using in more painting sessions) just don't stay wet in my old butcher tray palette under plastic wrap. Even in monsoon season it is just too dry here! (maybe it's the altitude?) So I'm looking forward to less frustration with that. I am really enjoying painting again, and can't wait to share the finished piece!

August 20, 2014

the Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon, Arizona
Welcome back! After taking a break from my blog this summer, I am looking forward to sharing some photos and art in the coming weeks. My boys are back in school and I am returning to the school year routine around here.

The last Friday before school started, we decided to drive up to the south rim of the Grand Canyon. It was stunning, vast, and everything I expected it to be. It is so big it's hard to even comprehend what you're looking at. The layers of rock were intriguing. While we spent far more time on the buses than I would have preferred (we did the long route to the west), we were able to get out and see the Canyon from several viewpoints. We visited in the middle of a gorgeous sunny day (with some scattered clouds that occasionally created interesting shadows), which was pleasant but did wash out the view some. So I know these aren't the most spectacular photos of the Grand Canyon, but they are mine! (all but the small one and the elk photo were taken with my DSLR camera, no editing except to crop and resize.)

On our way back, we ate dinner in the historic Route 66 town of Williams, so I can add that to my list of Route 66 places visited, cool! We ate in a vintage car-themed diner, and then browsed the gift shop next door where I found a Grand Canyon photo plate for the front of my truck (now that we live in Arizona where cars only have rear plates, it was an empty spot, and I finally found something I wanted to put there).

The Grand Canyon (south rim)

we saw several young elk along the road south of the Grand Canyon