review: Rad Women Worldwide

Rad Women Worldwide

Rad Women Worldwide: Artists and Athletes, Pirates and Punks, and Other Revolutionaries Who Shaped History by Kate Schatz, illustrated by Miriam Klein Stahl

This follow-up to Rad American Women A-Z includes short biographical sketches of about forty women who have achieved in a wide variety of areas: science, sports, art, social justice, music, politics, and lots more. I was pleased to see women from many cultures and backgrounds included – there are still plenty of white women here, but not as uneven a balance as most of the history books I’ve seen. This book is written at about a middle school level but the design is appealing to this adult and the papercut illustrations work very effectively at conveying a timeless feel while not seeming dated (so many books that try to “make history cool!” are designed to current trends and seem outdated almost immediately). It definitely has a bit of a zine-y feel, which I am admittedly predisposed to. Each of the entries is only a page or two long and it’s easy to dip in and out or read straight through, whichever suits you.

full disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from Blogging for Books


We planted two apple trees last year, and they are both still alive, though one seems to be doing better than the other. It was a REALLY hot summer and I think that they got more heat and less water than they wanted.

Forgive this terribly-lit photo:
This apple tree got scorched? or something, only looking about half okay

This one is the one that is not doing as well. It doesn’t have any fruit and part of it looks like it just got scorched.

This apple tree got scorched? or something, only looking about half okay

Parts of it look okay, though, with green leaves growing on normal-looking (as far as I can tell) wood.

This apple tree got scorched? or something, only looking about half okay

You can see the contrast there. I’m not sure what to do about it – need to do more research. If anyone knows more about this, please share!

Happily, the other one has several teensy little apples, so it’s at least trying!

A couple of wee apples on this tree

It’s definitely a tiny start, but baby steps, right?

vacation bag proof

I used the Two Zip Hipster I made for our trip throughout our travels and it was perfect! I was able to carry the necessities with me but not be burdened with a heavy bag or a sore shoulder. Cross-body bags are great for travel, too, as it’s nearly impossible to set them down and forget them.

Two Zip Hipster (pattern by Dog Under My Desk) fits the Universal tour package binder perfectly

As it turned out, Universal gave us a little notebook with all our tickets and stuff inside, and it was as if this purse was designed to hold it. It could not have been a more perfect fit!

Two Zip Hipster (pattern by Dog Under My Desk) fits the Universal tour package binder perfectly

As you can see in the photo above, it fits inside with just enough room to zip the zipper above it. I do find it interesting that Universal still likes to give you a hundred little pieces of paper to manage, whereas I believe Disney now does everything on a wristband if you book a package (for our day trips they issued us a card that contained all our ticket, fast pass, and dessert reservation info). If you’re going to Universal and doing a package, I definitely recommend making this bag.

Universally vacationed

The week before last we went on a vacation. Woo! We hardly ever go on far-away trips so this was a treat we were looking forward to for awhile.

We booked through a local travel agent and we were so happy with their service! I called one day before they opened in the morning and left a voicemail and within a few hours, they emailed me a number of potential itineraries that suited the various options we wanted to look at. I love this kind of thing! Getting to see the full details of each option is important to me for decision-making and every time I asked them a question it was answered right away. I highly recommend Valley Travel!

A Daisy sized tree #meijergardens #bonsai #blythe #blythedoll

We ended up with a very early flight on Monday, so we got a park-and-ride deal at a hotel in Grand Rapids, which was nice. It was handy to have the car taken care of while we were gone and to not have to get up in the middle of the night to drive over an hour to the airport. I’m so glad that our travel agent recommended it. Since we had Sunday night booked for this, we ended up heading to GR a little early and visiting a few of our favorite spots. We checked out Meijer Gardens to see the ArtPrize entries and happened to see a way cool bonsai show that was happening that day. I totally want to grow bonsai! I had seen something on instagram the day before about the Grand Rapids Symphony playing a series of ArtPrize concerts, and when I texted our pal Michael he confirmed that they’d be doing three that afternoon at a space downtown. We were so happy to get to see him and listen to the concert, even if some of the music was a little cheesy. Part of the concept of these mini concerts is to get people interested who might not otherwise think about the symphony, so some of the pieces were adaptations of famous works with more of a contemporary feel (eg: add electric bass and trap set). I’d rather hear the originals, but it was still a really fun show and the audience was super receptive which was neat to hear. We then played some pinball at the Pyramid Scheme and had a very filling dinner and beers at Hopcat. I sometimes forget how many fun things there are to do in GR, so I’m glad that we had an impetus to take advantage at the last minute.

Our room is kinda fancy #universalstudios

We stayed on-property at the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando. Part of the deal with staying on-property is that we each got a free Express Pass, as well as complimentary water taxi service to and from the Universal CityWalk (which is connected to both of the parks). The hotel is very nice, but we did not have a great experience staying there. Virtually all of the time we were in our room, we could hear dogs barking. And not just in the distance, but loudly enough to wake us up. We don’t spend a lot of time in luxury hotels, but to me, it seems unacceptable to have this kind of noise happening, especially to have it happening repeatedly for days on end. We had to call the front desk a number of times because the barking just would not stop. I’m really surprised that they don’t have better soundproofing to avoid this being a problem. I’m all about seeing cute dogs, but if I’m paying a room rate of over $300 per night, I shouldn’t have to hear them from inside my room. (Note: This was BEFORE the hurricane happened, so there’s no special circumstances. More on the hurricane later.)

Our flight to Orlando was really early, so we ended up having almost a full day more at Universal than we originally thought. We spent most of Monday and all of Tuesday and Wednesday at the Universal parks. Our original plan was for two days and that really would have been enough. We ended up feeling like we had done everything we wanted to with time left to spare, so I’d definitely recommend just two days – one day per park is plenty.

Hoggy warty Hogwarts #universalstudios

Our package included breakfasts at the two quick-service restaurants in Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley, the Three Broomsticks and the Leaky Cauldron. We ate at the Leaky Cauldron first, and then at the Three Broomsticks the day after, and I found it very interesting to see the differences. The two restaurants are almost exactly the same – the decor is slightly different according to what we know about the two establishments according to canon, but you can really tell that the Leaky Cauldron was built later (along with the rest of Diagon Alley) because it has some definite improvements in terms of the experience. The Three Broomsticks has a pretty typical quick-service counter setup – you approach the counter in queues and behind the checkout registers is the window pass-through to the kitchen. This means that you can see into the kitchen – seeing the chef in his whites and workers dumping pillows of preconstituted scrambled eggs into warming pans definitely makes the experience a little less than authentic. The Leaky Cauldron, on the other hand, has a much more immersive experience. You still queue to place orders at counters that look strikingly similar, but then you take an oversized candlestick (featuring a number) to another queue where you’re seated, and then someone brings your order to your table (located by that number on the candlestick). This definitely felt more like a fully-realized experience than the older restaurant. The breakfast menu was almost identical at these two places, so I feel like it would be possible to skip the Three Broomsticks and not really miss much. The Leaky Cauldron for sure has what I consider to be more of a Disney level of experience.

Speaking of which, it is very interesting to see the differences between Universal and Disney. At Disney, you NEVER see someone in costume en route to or from work in an area of the park where they don’t belong. At Universal, we felt like we were constantly near someone who was out of place as far as their costume/uniform was concerned. At one of the post-ride Harry Potter gift shops, two of the workers were having a loud conversation about something on pay per view – talk about removing you from the experience!

And speaking of the post-ride HP shops, they were all SO DARK! Customers were seriously using the flashlight app on their phones to even see the merchandise on some racks. It was atmospheric, sure, but it definitely discouraged shopping, which seems counterproductive.

We did buy the wands and play with them ‘doing magic’ at the preappointed spots in both HP parks, but there was pretty much always a line of kids waiting to do them and most of them are in direct sun where I didn’t feel like standing around waiting, so we didn’t make it a point to do all of them. They also work less well when it’s sunny, so it took forever to get some of the sensors to pick up the motion.

Water taxi #tiredeyes #universalstudios

Another thought: when we visited Disney before, we found the meal plan to be a really good deal, but the Universal one was definitely not as good a deal. For one, it turned out that the only full-service restaurants that participate in the plan are in Citywalk. Not one of the restaurants in our (on-resort) hotel participated! And there just are none in the parks that are open for dinner (they’re LISTED as being open for dinner on the literature, but in reality closed at 3 or 4pm). So that was kind of annoying. We also ended up with more snacks and drinks than we really needed – we used them up, but it felt a bit wasteful. I’d recommend skipping the meal plan at Universal.

The rest of the Universal Parks were fine, but nothing was as much fun for me as the HP stuff. Hearing other guests exclaim with excitement as they entered Diagon Alley or see the Hogwarts Express was pretty magical. My favorite rides were also in the HP parks.

We had planned to spend Thursday at Epcot to experience the Food and Wine Festival, and we did – until they closed the park early at 5pm because of the impending hurricane! It had been sort of mildly gross all day, but not impossible to walk around in, and in the morning we got a call from Delta that our flight the following day had been canceled. I was able to rebook us for Sunday (everything was preemptively closed on Friday and there were no flights to be had on Saturday) after we got off the Living with the Land ride (side note: how do they manage not to mention indigenous peoples at all in this ride?! How did I not notice that the last time we rode it?!), as well as extend our stay at our hotel for another two nights. Hooray for smartphones! I can’t even imagine how much time I would have had to spend on that rigamarole if I didn’t have everything I needed right in my phone. By the time 5pm rolled around, the rain was coming down pretty steadily, and then, just as we bolted from under the overhang to get to our hotel car, it started bucketing down. It was raining as heavily as I’ve ever seen it, or at least it felt like it. We got safely back to our hotel and tucked in for a night of watching the local weather and checking in with family and friends on facebook.

Friday we were stuck in the hotel all day – everything in the Orlando area was closed, and almost everything in our hotel was also closed. None of the restaurants were open and the one singular option we had for food was a buffet set up in one of the ballrooms. This buffet was $25 per person per meal no matter what you ate. The food was just okay – typical conference food, which is not a compliment. It felt ridiculous to have to pay so much for a meal that wasn’t great, and to have absolutely no choice. We overheard another guest saying that she had food intolerances and couldn’t eat any of the buffet options (everything was sauced within an inch of its life – woe be to any kids or other picky eaters who aren’t into sauces) and the hotel staff was like, this is all we have. I totally get that options were limited and they only had limited staff on-site, but it really felt like the hotel was taking advantage of being the only food option. We ate breakfast, grabbed a couple of extra bagels so we could skip lunch, and then ate dinner. $100 for one day’s food that wasn’t even very good, bleh. The storm pretty much blew through overnight (early Friday morning, technically) and we saw some dead palm fronds blown down, but otherwise there didn’t seem to be damage to where we were. Despite all my complaining, we did feel very lucky that no truly severe weather hit us and as far as we know all our family and friends also stayed safe. We know that we are lucky to be whining about overpaying for food.

Friday’s house arrest was made slightly easier by a ST:TNG marathon on BBC America (why they’re airing that show is beyond me, but I’ll take it) and by planning for Saturday. We decided that we couldn’t handle another day of just sitting around and might as well take advantage of our proximity to other entertainment, so we got tickets to Disney’s Hollywood Studios for our last day. It turned out to be one of the most fun days of our vacation! There’s a lot of new Star Wars stuff at this park and it was really fun to see it all. We also got tickets to the Galactic Spectacular Dessert Party, which includes not just zerts, but also apps, an open bar and VIP viewing for the Star Wars fireworks show. It was SUPER worth it! Everything edible was Star Wars themed and really cute as well as tasty. The apps and zerts were close enough to being dinner for us. We also got a complimentary bottle of water during the fireworks and we each got a plastic Chewbacca mug to take home. The fireworks show involves a lot of movie footage shown on the sides of the big buildings in the center of the park. It was so great! I would not have expected to enjoy it as much as I did, but it almost brought me to tears! I super mega recommend doing this if you visit this park.

Overall I think that slightly less than one full day at DHS is enough – we had plenty of time for sitting and catching our breath throughout the day and managed to ride the Toy Story game twice, all before the relatively early start time of the Dessert Party. One thing that Universal has a better deal with than Disney is the Express Pass. During our day at Epcot, there were ZERO Fast Passes available for any rides. None! (We didn’t even attempt to ride the new Frozen ride in Norway.) At DHS, there were some fast passes, but it seemed like the ones that we got weren’t even really needed as the lines weren’t terribly long to begin with. Being able to just jump in a fast line EVERY TIME at Universal was really nice.

Then we flew home on Sunday and felt like we never wanted to leave the house again. I think that our original timeline of Monday-Friday was good for us and having it extended was just more time than we wanted to be away. We’re such homebodies!

sweet Narcissa

Sometimes you want to knit with larger needles but still be able to make something for a small doll. In this case, it’s for Middie Blythe with easy-on-the-hands size 7 (4.5mm) needles using worsted weight yarn – not tiny at all! Yet you still get a very small sweater out of it that fits Middie perfectly.

Narcissa Sweater for Middie Blythe by AnneArchy

It’s just getting to be big cozy sweater weather where I live and I am so ready. I’ve been relishing wearing leggings almost every day lately and I’m totally in an autumn state of mind. This sweater is just perfect for this time of year! Your Middie can be comfy cozy with a little knitting from you!

Narcissa Sweater for Middie Blythe by AnneArchy

Grab this pattern at Etsy, Ravelry, Craftsy, and LoveKnitting.

review: New Small Garden

new small garden

New Small Garden: Contemporary Principles, Planting, and Practice by Noel Kingsbury, photos by Maayke de Ridder

My goal is to turn our yard into all garden, but our yard is so large that I’m taking it in small chunks, so I’m thinking about it as a series of small gardens. This will hopefully allow me to get each smaller area established and in a place where it’s relatively self-sufficient so I can move on to the next one and eventually have them all be in that state of self-sufficiency.

Determining how to divide up the space into these smaller gardens is a bit of a challenge, but it’s also fun, and this book is helpful in figuring out how to design the smaller spaces so they feel at least a little bit planned/on purpose. The photographs are beautiful and they’re taken from vantage points that really allow you to feel how it would be to walk through the garden. Of course the gardens pictured are also lovely, developed spaces where the plants are thriving. There are lots of little tips throughout (your garden really also includes any space you can see in any direction, so work with the background or decide to block it out with plantings, etc).

One of the things that I have figured out over the years is that pathways are one of the most important pieces in defining a space, and a wide variety of path surfaces are featured here. Some of these pathways are grass, but the book is very clear in pointing out that if you have lawn, it will almost certainly be the most time-consuming thing to maintain in your garden. This gets back to my plan of eventually getting rid of grass! We have a few spaces where we’ve seeded mini clover and it is just getting established. It only grows to about 4″ high so it can be mowed if you want to, but really doesn’t need to be. I am all in favor of this sort of walk-on-able green plant.

There are a ton of other areas covered in this book that I am certain I’ll be back to refer to. I highly recommend this book!

full disclosure: I checked this book out at my local public library

saving seeds: Cosmos

It’s the time of year where I can start saving seeds and I am super excited about it. While this is probably a tedious task for a lot of folks, I really enjoy it. It’s especially enjoyable with a plant like Cosmos, which has super easy to gather seeds that separate from the chaff with practically no effort.

My usual procedure is to take a pair of household shears and snip the dried seed head off the stem directly into a large envelope.

Front walk flowers

When I’ve gathered all the seed heads I can find, I gently crush the envelope between my hands so most of the seeds fall off the heads. Then I dump it out onto a piece of paper towel (a piece of plain white paper works well, too) and pick out the seeds.

Saving seeds - Cosmos

I place these into a smaller envelope and let them fully dry out (usually they are super dry by this point, but I like to make sure so that there’s no chance they’ll mold). When I’ve got all the seeds out, I dump the chaff into the compost and wait for more seed heads to dry out on the plant. It’s so easy! I’m hoping to plant cosmos in a few different places in the yard next year – they’re lovely by the front walk but they’re SO HUGE and really just a bit big for that area. You can see here that some of them are as tall as I am!

These cosmos have reached Anne height

This is just a bit overwhelming for a front walk, I think. I’m really hoping that these seeds I’m gathering allow me to create more pollinator-friendly areas next year!

Front walk flowers

free pattern! Dana Cloth

Huzzah! It’s another free pattern!

Dana Cloth

This one was inspired by a friend of mine who is getting hitched soon. I always like to make wash/dish cloths because I find them so handy myself. You can use them for just about anything, they’re a snap to launder, and I think it’s nice to have a bunch on hand for whenever a need arises. I use them for washing my face, scrubbing dishes, dusting, and cleaning a ton of other things around the house. They make great gifts – or treats for yourself!

Dana Cloth

Snag this pattern for free on Ravelry, LoveKnitting, and Craftsy.

asterrific volunteer

We have a lovely wildflower blooming under the pine tree out front.

Some kind of wild aster growing under the pine tree

I believe it’s a variety of aster, but I’m not sure which one. Most of those I’m familiar with have a yellow center, and this one is definitely purple/pink. As you can see in this photo, there are also a ton of weeds growing under there (including a very spiny-looking dandelion of some kind) and we’ve just sort of been ignoring that area. I’m happy to see this volunteer, though!

If anyone knows what this plant is actually named, I’d love to know!

a brand new bag

We are going on a trip pretty soon*, to Universal Studios and Epcot! I am pretty excited since we haven’t been on a vacation in awhile, and it’ll be Halloween-theme-time at the parks. It’s also the Food and Wine Festival at Epcot, which we loved the last time we went. And we haven’t ever been to the Harry Potter parks! I’ve been bingeing Witch, Please in preparation (I have been listening to this anyway because it is THE BEST, but I’ve been spreading the episodes out so I could always have more – I finally gave in and just got caught up).

I knew that I wouldn’t want to carry my usual purse in the parks and that I wanted a cross-body style for max comfort and making sure I don’t lose it (a shoulder bag is too put-down-able). I know that generally you don’t need to carry a lot of stuff with you in these parks, but I always want sunglasses and sunscreen and mints and whatever and anyway, I knew I needed a bag.

The perfect one was already in my pattern file: the Two Zip Hipster by Dog Under My Desk.

Spoopy Two Zip Hipster - pattern by Dog Under My Desk

It turned out awesome! I have raved before about Erin’s patterns but seriously, they are THE BEST (equal level of awesome as Witch, Please). They’re so easy and every step is laid out and it all goes so smoothly. I chose this super spoopy fabric in honor of Halloween time. I had hoped to find a Harry Potter themed fabric, but all the ones that Joann carries (at least in our local store) are loud and juvenile and not cool enough. I’m happy with this spider fabric, though, and I’m also going to embellish the exterior with at least one Hillary pin (#ImWithHer)! If any of you lovelies have tips or things to know about our destinations, please share!

*would-be evil-doers, take note that our house will be occupied while we’re away! No opportunities here!