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Saturday, January 28, 2017

Making Sick Days Better with Audible


This week has been a rough one in the Stewart household. Jacob came home from work on Monday and went right to bed. He started running a temperature and a couple of days later he was diagnosed with Influenza B.

When the doc let us know that it was officially the flu, my first question was, "Is it worth it for me to go get my flu shot right now?" He said that yes, some protection was better than nothing. The flu vaccine begins to work immediately, but you don't get full immunity until about 2 weeks later. I figured that if Jacob got it then it was going around and even if I was able to not get sick from him I'd better get a flu shot, just in case.

So, when I picked up his medicine (a couple of special cough syrups and a nasal spray) I got my shot. The pharmacist was like, "You know you don't get full immunity for 2 weeks, right?" And I was like "Yep."

It was the same story at the kids pediatrician, where I took them for their shots that afternoon. Well, I took 2/3 of them. When I arrived at the school to pick up Benjamin and Levi, Benjamin was in the nurse's office and he left his lunch in the trash can.

So, by the time the afternoon rolled around I had one husband with the flu and one third-grader with a stomach bug. The school nurse had told me not to bring him to school the next day (and I believe it is always true that you need to have been symptom-free for 24 hours before leaving home). There would've been no question in my mind, because he was quite ill until the late evening.

Once Benjamin's stomach was feeling a little better, he was ready to do something. Happily, I had something in mind.

My mom had texted me earlier in the day, asking if there was anything she could do to help. Since she lives more than 2,000 miles away, the only thing I could think of to ask for was her Audible password. She was happy to oblige.

While we were in AZ for the holidays I started thinking about how I wanted Benjamin to listen to The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett. It's such a fantastic audiobook. And I had actually checked it out from the library a couple of days before, We had started listening in the car, but the closest thing to a CD player we have these days is a CD drive and I wasn't about to haul the desktop into his bedroom. I knew Jacob was using his laptop for his own sick day entertainment (and that it surely had flu virus all over by now).

So I downloaded the Audible app on my phone really quick and signed in with my mom's account. When I told him all of his fantastic options, I can't say I'm surprised that he picked Alcatraz and the Knights of Crystallia by Brandon Sanderson. He loves the series. No matter, we have plenty of time for Tiffany Aching and the crazy blue fairies.

Benjamin enjoyed listening for a good while and I think it really helped him pass the time. I'm definitely going to have to remember audiobooks next time I get sick myself. I don't know about you but for me there is always that terrible time when you can't really get out of bed, you don't want to have to hold up a book, and you feel like time is passing so slowly. Thankfully Benjamin is feeling better now, although Jacob still has some recovering to do.

And, obviously, I think I'll have to get my own Audible account. It seems super easy, now that Audible is owned by Amazon. Amazon is very good at making it easy to buy things, have you noticed? Anyway, when I start my account I'll definitely start with the 30-day free trial. I've linked it here, for my own later convenience, and in case you're interested. If you sign up for a free trial of Audible then I get a small commission from Amazon, and for the next two days you'll get two free audiobooks. Here's the link: Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks

I really enjoy audiobooks when I'm driving, and also sometimes when I'm cleaning. Back in 2007 I listened to Twilight on audiobook, and I cleaned the whole house and started doing push-ups and sit-ups just so I could keep it on. I feel like I have to be doing something while I'm listening, I guess. While I definitely prefer the print versions of some books (Twilight included) The Tiffany Aching books are ones I far prefer on audio. I also started Flo Gibson's reading of The Jungle Book and had to return it to the library, back in Georgia, so I've been itching to finish that one. And I'll be keeping my eye on the winners of the Odyssey award, which is like the Newbery award for audiobooks.

What is your experience with audiobooks? Also, how do you like to deal with sick days?

Thursday, January 19, 2017

From Bunny Babies to Evil Queens: 6 books I've Been Wanting to Tell You About

Hi guys! I've been reading loads of good books lately, and I wanted to tell you about 'em. Some I've read for the Cybils Graphic Novels judging, others I've just read in the last while. I'll put a star (*) by the books that made a Cybils shortlist. It is also worth noting that you can click on a book cover to shop for that book (or whatever else), and when you shop I make a small commission.


The Princess in Black Takes a Vacation - Another solid entry into this great series of first chapter books. As you can imagine, the princess's vacation gives Duff the Goat Boy a chance to get his first taste of action. And Magnolia herself faces the most fierce monster yet! (more of my reviews of this series are found here). I have to say, both story lines in this book were kind of painful for different reasons, but I don't want to spoil too much. 

A Child of Books - This is the sort of picture book that adult book worms will eat up. I loved it, but my kids weren't poring over it while we had it checked out of the library. The beautiful art is made of typography and mixed media. The text is a poem about rediscovering books and imagination.


Hand in Hand - Here's another picture book that I loved. I'm going to say that this one was also written for adults though. Each picture features a mother and baby bunny, and the text is a poem from the little one to the grown-up. As the book goes on, the little rabbit gets older until at the end he is independent. I really love Rosemary Well's art, and this might be some of her best. I also love her stories, and this one isn't a narrative as much as an ode to mothers.


Snow White - This is a graphic novel retelling of the classic story, but it is set in the 1920's. I loved the update of the "magic mirror," though I won't spoil for you what object takes on magical significance in this version. The illustrations are Phelan's classics and his image of the wicked queen will be staying with me for a while! Thumbs up for transplanting this story into a new era.


*Dare to Disappoint: Growing up in Turkey - This book's title doesn't do it justice, in my opinion. It is a graphic novel memoir of growing up in Turkey, of course. The book starts out with light childhood memories, which are quite enjoyable to read. it progresses and talks about Özge's time in school and follows her until her college education is complete. It reminded me (and others on the Cybils panel) of Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. It has much less darkness and upsetting material than Persepolis does, but it still has lots of interesting themes to talk about. I think it would make a great book for discussion in a 7th or 8th grade class. 

*The Nameless City - This graphic novel is first in a new series that is going to have wide appeal. I loved it, and I can see kids from third to tenth grade enjoying it. It follows two kids in a city: one is a girl whose ancestors have lived in the city for a long time, the other is the son of a soldier of the occupying army, training to become a soldier himself. Because of the city's unique position, it has been conquered time and time again. Because of the kids' unique skills and resources, they become business partners and then friends. Lots of meaty themes (representation in government, military occupation, homelessness, diplomacy), lots of action (jumping from rooftops, hand to hand combat) and the relationships between the characters make this one a page turner and book worth reading. 

I'm interested to know what sort of books you're looking for these days. Anything I can help you find?

with love,
Alysa



Monday, January 9, 2017

A Gold Star to These Four Websites

Hello again! I hope your holiday break was wonderful. Mine wasI had a lovely, warm time in AZ with family.

We did some campfire cooking, just for fun.
There are about a billion things I've been wanting to tell you about. Ok, I counted and there are actually four.

These are all websites that I hope will make your life easier, because they've helped me. Even though some of them aren't strictly book related, I hope you'll enjoy. It's funny, but sometimes I can't help but put myself into a (book) box. Even though I know I personally care about more than just books, sometimes when I consider posting about something that isn't about books I have this nasty second thought that says I'm not allowed. Luckily I usually have a third thought that says that I can post about whatever I want, especially if it is a good thing that will make people's lives easier.

First and foremost: The 2016 Cybils shortlists have been announced! I was on the Graphic Novels committee this year, so I helped narrow 55 middle grade nominees down to this list of commendable titles, and 52 Young Adult nominees down to this list of contenders. On February 14, the second round of judges will announce which book in each shortlist has won the big prize. To see all the categories, click here.

Next up: I wanted to tell you about the tool that helped our Cybils panel find a time when we could all chat about the nominees. It's called Doodle. I find it super useful when I'm trying to schedule something with more than three people. I'll be honest: if I can't just make two phone calls (or read replies to two emails) I can't keep track of it. Doodle lets you make a poll, "when do you want to do this," and people check yes or no for whatever possible times you have put in. Then it displays the results in red and green. I particularly like the function that lets you check yes, no, or "if need be," which turns yellow. Then the stoplight coloring is really coming through. Anyway, I don't use Doodle super often, and I've never used their paid premium version, but when I've needed it, I've been glad to know about it. I'm not an affiliate for Doodle, in case you were wondering.

I am an affiliate for Creativebug. I've just had a lot of fun with this service (I think of it as the Netflix of art and crafts tutorials), so I applied to be an affiliate with them. [This means that if you sign up for Creativebug through my links, they'll pay me a little bit.] Anyway, Creativebug seems like the kind of thing that's too fun to keep to myself. I've taken classes about drawing and sketchbooking, making my own envelopes, making quilts, using watercolors, and more. They have classes geared to kidsmy boys got into making sculpey creations after watching one class.

I drew these birds in Jan 2016 when I took the 31 Things To Draw with Lisa Congdon class.
One class I remember fondly was about how to choose a color palette. It was geared to quilters and I haven't ever made a quilt all by myself, but I was always wondering what colors to use in things (art, home decorating) and loved the color wheel technique the instructor used.

Anyway, I could go on about Creativebug all day. It's $5/month, and so worth it. You get to permanently save one class for every month that you subscribe, so even though I've cancelled my subscription for the moment (knew I wasn't going to be watching much while I was reading like a nut for the Cybils) I can still look back on those favorite classes I saved. And it's super easy to cancel and resubscribe. I've done it like 3 times. They're running a promotion right now for a free month (yes, you still get to save a class to your library) and along with it you get a 30% off coupon to JoAnn's. I'll stick a banner here so you can click on it if you're interested.


One last thing: Speaking of monthly subscription services, I've traded our Netflix subscription for a PBS sustainer's membership. Five words; The Great British Baking Show. I had to have more of it. Since there wasn't anything we were really into on Netflix, and since I kept hearing myself complain to Jacob that I wanted to watch more of GBBS, I just decided to do it. You get access to all the special back episodes of shows if you're a sustainer. I am not an affiliate for PBS, by the way. But if you make a one-time gift of $60 or sign up to make a monthly gift of $5, you get to watch all the Great British Baking Show you want. We took advantage of this over the holidays.

It was adorable to hear my kids walking around after the finale of Season 2. They kept saying "I can't believe ----- won!" Then my mom was like, "Do they have Poldark on there?" And I was like, "Yeah, is that a good show?" And she's like "So good. So. Good." So I might have to start watching that. And I might have to catch up on Sherlock and watch some old Antiques Roadshows or something. I guess I might not be so excited about this if we had TV, but we don't. I'm excited to have access to the PBS stuff that had "expired" for me before.

The only downside to this PBS thing is that the navigation is clunky. Sometimes it takes me a few minutes to find the episode I'm looking for. I've solved that by adding episodes to my watchlist, for now.

So there you have it! A handful of the things on the internet that are keeping me happy and educated and helping me be creative and such. Do you already use any of these? I'd love to hear about it. Which one intrigues you the most? What do you have to add to the list?
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