Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

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1. I have revolutionized my way of living- I made a grading calendar. Why have I not done this before? I assign certain assignments to myself to grade and input each day so that things are now in much more manageable chunks. I'm still behind, but feeling like I am only responsible for so much on each day helps. I'm on day three and I'm actually ahead. 

2. Sawyer sleeps a million times better than he used to and since the time change he has been sleeping later in the morning to (he used to wake up before he needed to and now he's barely stirring as I go in to get him). Unfortunately, after crappy sleep for a few years now I can barely go two or three hours straight without waking up or becoming very restless. I don't want to take anything medicinal because I still need to be conscious in case he needs me and I typically end up really groggy when I have taken things in the past. After reading The Sleep Revolution and doing some additional research I found that tart cherry juice is a natural producer of melatonin and that some studies have shown it's effectiveness as a natural sleep aid. Last night I drank two ounces an hour before bed and slept for almost five hours straight. I don't know if it's a fluke, but I will definitely be trying it for a few weeks to see if it works. I have the data from by Fitbit to help me out, which I know isn't perfect but it's a least good for comparison reasons.

3. Speaking of my Fitbit, my husband got me the Charge 2 for my birthday and it's so much better than the Flex. It's not too big and the information it provides is a dream come true. 

4. I just started Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance and am so far really interested. I thoroughly acknowledge the fact that I am comfortable and happy in my liberal, progressive, Californian bubble and need to see how others live in the US. 

5. This weekend we are in full Christmas mode! Friday night we are putting up the tree and Saturday I am taking Sawyer to a Breakfast with Santa event at Pretend City in Irvine. That night we are going to head to The Mission Inn in Riverside to check out their huge light display and then on Sunday we'll do some baking and more decorating. There are only three more weekends until Christmas weekend and I work up until the twenty-third this year. Womp womp. Holidays are SO much more fun with a toddler. I used to sort of see Christmas as a means to a break (which is still great and I can't wait for), but now it's all about the fun activities we can do with him during December. 

6. Sawyer is super obsessed with BB-8 from Star Wars and has likes to say hi to the inflatable one that's on display at Target for Christmas (we go to Target very often, so this has happened numerous times). Scott and I are vehemently opposed to lawn inflatables (sorry-not-sorry), but we decided that we'd compromise and get on for the backyard so it's not visible from the front but then Sawyer can enjoy it whenever he wants from the sliding glass door. 

7. I started listening to Laurent Graham's new memoir Talking as Fast as I Can and it's been the perfect cure for the sadness following being done with all the new episodes. 

8. I know that I'm not going to Vegas for two and a half months but I am already SO excited (my mom and I are going to a concert and my brother, who is probably too young for me to keep up with in that city, might come along as well).

Thanksgiving Break

[still so proud of my lattice work]

It's been pretty quiet on the blog, but in real life this week has been busy! I am fortunate enough to have the whole week off, which thankfully sort of took the edge of the mounting stressors I'd been trying to ward off. 

So, here's a lot of pictures and a few words:

[85 going on 60- this guy is a beast]

The weekend break started we had an 85th birthday party for my grandfather in Brea. My brother and his girlfriend drove to my house and we drove to Orange County together, which made the drive more enjoyable. There were lots of aunts, uncles, and cousins there, so it was nice to catch up and for them to see crazy Sawyer. We also hit up Chelo's Creamery on the way back in The City of Industry, which is one of the few places that that has rolled ice cream. It was good, but I think it's more of a novelty thing that will fizzle out.

The next morning my brother, his girlfriend, and I drove up to UCLA to do a 5k that is a charity run for The Special Olympics. This year it ended rivalry week with USC, so when you sign up you pick a school and your fees are in their pot, adding a layer of team competition to it. I ran it about thirty seconds or so faster than my goal, so I was definitely pleased. And, despite the numerous hills, I ran the entire time and had no pain, so I definitely entertained some half marathon fantasies on the way home.

I was able to see many friends while off, which made things even better. A good friend and I have the same birthday, so we left our little guys at home with their dads and had breakfast the weekend before. I met another friend with her little girl for lunch, got to spend a few hours with our friends from out of town that came home for the holidays, and then was lucky enough to see a few students-turned-friends. 

[chicken and waffles for breakfast; I think I need to try ones with better chicken...]

After talking Santa up extensively, I took Sawyer to see him the day before Thanksgiving. We rehearsed it many times:

Me: What are you going to say when you see Santa?
Sawyer: Hiiiii.
Me: And then you can stand by him and when they take a picture what do you say?
Sawyer: Cheeeeeese.
Me: And then what?
Sawyer: M&Ms
Me: Yeah!

I got this parenting thing in the bag. Obviously. It worked and I have an adorable picture of him, smiling, holding his own stuffed little Santa that he insisted taking next to the real deal. 

There was lots of food. Like "afraid to step on the scale" lots of food. It's Thanksgiving. What can you do?

As previously mentioned, I hosted Thanksgiving, which meant two days of cleaning and cooking. Everything turned out well and my oven burns are minimal, so we'll call it a win.

I finished Jonathan Safran Foer's book, Here I Am, which I enjoyed for various reasons and will discuss soon. I am also about half way through Arianna Huffington's nonfiction, The Sleep Revolution, and I am fairly confident my brain is turning to mush because of my horrible sleep situation. I somehow miraculously watched the entire four episodes of the new Gilmore Girls, and the ending made wanting more. I ran, I cross stitched, I graded far too few papers.

So, tomorrow we head back into the final four weeks of the semester and I am determined to jump back on the productivity train that I was riding before break started, so that it's not two in the morning the night before grades are due and I'm in the fetal position weeping. Because that would never happen.  

I'm also excited to get Christmas going around here! I had wanted to put up our tree today, but Sawyer napped late and I was trying to get things tied up. Next weekend will be Christmas-heavy, so, see above comment on me getting it together. ASAP.

Hope everyone had a  great holiday! 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

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1. Thanksgiving prep is in full force, over here, so things will be a tad shorter than normal. I am hosting my husband's parents and his sister's family of four, plus our three and my brother. I have done far, far bigger, so while I still need to make sure the house is clean and the food is made this isn't too crazy. I am doing the turkey, stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, and then pumpkin and apple pies. It makes sense for the host to do the first three things, and the others I don't mind (I love making pie, actually). Right now the bread has been dried and cubed for the stuffing and there is a pie crust mixing as we speak. There are still a few more things to do... ha. 

2. Some subtle things I am doing differently: making extra pie crust to attempt fanciness, seasoning the heck out of the bread crumbs prior to drying, adding in a mac and cheese dish, and using a new brining recipe for the turkey. I'm also going to take a run up a long, tall, hill before the morning kicks off, so I might die before all of this can come to fruition. 

3. I am trying to push through the last season of The Gilmore Girls before Friday and I don't think it's going to happen in time. I'm horrible at binge watching- I've gotten through six episodes in the last two months, but it's not like I've never seen them before.

4. My new obsession: following super-talented embroidery artists on Instagram. I follow very few strangers/celebrities/places, but their work is truly inspiring so I am making an exception.

5. A few food bloggers, like Joy the Baker, have started "Coobook Clubs" and I am soooooo jealous. Basically, they get together with a group of friends and divide up recipes from the same cookbook and have themselves a dinner party with all new-to-them dishes. Someday, one day, eventually, I will make this happen in my life, with my friends.

6. I got a flu shot for the first time ever on Monday (I know, I'm horrible, but I just put it off... Sawyer always gets his, though!) and my arm is sore, has a huge bump underneath, and is start to get a bruise the size of golf ball. But of course. It's worth it, right? 

Have a lovely Thanksgiving, guys! Remember, it's one thing to shout your gratefulness out on social media, but make sure to do something about it. Donate to charities! Call your grandma! Give that person that irritates you a tad a compliment. Nonetheless, enjoy and eat!


Once in awhile I post about things I'm loving- gotta share the wealth, right? Here's a hodgepodge of things I'm slightly obsessed with right now:

Oversized Coffee Cups 

Target has super cute, affordable ones, but I always like the occasional Anthropologie splurge. I picked the "C" one up with my 15% off birthday coupon this month:


ASICS Gel Kayano-22 Running Shoes

I still regret my temporary leave from ASICS. These shoes are made for my flat, over-pronating, deformed feet- I feel like I am walking on a cloud. I haven't even moved over my orthotics from my old Mizunos back to these.

Reese's Stuffed with Pieces

Move over Hi-Chews, there's a new, fattier, more delicious, favorite candy around here.

Target's Christmas Line

Sawyer and I have a problem... Target has the CUTEST Christmas decorations this year. Most of our purchases have been $10 or less (the ornaments for $3 are perfect for the bottom 1/3 of my tree where they at risk for toddler hands and large dog tails), but this little guy did find a new home:


Albero Spanish Rose from Trader Joes

Obviously this isn't one I recommend to my readers under 21... But, anyway, if you are old enough to drink, this is super cheap from Trader Joe's, but it's good after dinner on the couch while trying to keep your eyes open for an episode of Gilmore Girls. Let me add that I am no wine connoisseur. At all. 

Your Daily Mix from Spotify 

I am late on the Spotify train- my husband subscribed and he signed me up sort of against my will and now I LOVE it. I noticed these mixes based on your recent listens and they're a great way to hear favorite songs and discover new ones (like Empire of the Sun, who I am loving for running).

Top Ten Tuesday- Thankful

This week's Top Ten Tuesday is a freebie related to Thanksgiving, so I'll just stick to some bookish things I am grateful for:

1. Escapism: Sometimes life really sucks and it's nice to have something to escape into. Sometimes life is really awesome and it's still nice to have something to escape into.

2. A shared language: I love discussing books with people- my husband, my colleagues, my students, my friends. 

3. Buying them: There is always, always a thrill that comes with purchasing new books, whether they arrive on my doorstep or I pick them up at the store. It doesn't even matter that I won't get to them, most likely, for months.

4. Learning: You can of course learn a great deal about humanity and culture from from fiction, but I also love the educational power of a well-read non-fiction text.

5. Travel and exploration: Books let you try out new destinations and hobbies before committing. 

6. Reading with my son: I love that Sawyer loves books and we read every single day at least once. It has helped develop his vocabulary and has already been a vehicle for teaching him important things.

7. Cognitive benefits: Countless studies have shown that reading helps your brain stay active and sharp for years to come.

8. Readings: While I don't get to attend nearly enough anymore, I love attending author events. Hearing the rationale behind the writing process and seeing the people behind the books is the best.

9. A Career: There are days my job drives me crazy, but my love of reading was one of the primary reasons that I became a teacher. Sure, I made a pit stop teaching elementary first, but I always knew I'd be a high school English teacher. And here I am.

10. Lessons in empathy: Readers are generally more empathetic people; reading allows us a glance into the psyche of others that are different than us, allowing empathy to be developed. 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

[oh what? It's 70 degrees? Clearly sweats weather]

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1. I am reading Jonathan Safran Foer's newest book and at one point the characters' lives are described as a sort of intro for a script. It made me think, what would my home and life be described like? It's sort of disturbing, but also fascinating. How do outsiders see us? Our dwellings?  

2. Speaking of the book, Here I Am, I am about half way through and am liking it. I know that there is a pretty wide range of opinions on it, but so far I'm not regretting my choice.

3. If we're going to be honest, I am having a hard time getting out of  my post-election funk. But here's the thing- I don't necessarily want to be done with it. I am not okay with the fact that I have students who are fearful for their families, friends who are worried about being mistreated because of their race or sexual identities, and family members nervous about the future of their disability/social security/insurance. When we become complacent we might as well become accepting.

4. Some ass stole my credit card number over the weekend and now I am waiting around for a new card. It's so annoying and I feel like there is a hole in my heart right now. I am also waiting on my new driver's license. If neither come soon I will have to start using... what's that word again? Oh yes. Cash. Or the bartering system, I guess. 

5. I had a very detailed dream the other night that me, my mom, and my sister were in Vegas and I hand't made hotel or restaurant reservations ahead of time and there was nothing available. I was frantic in my dream and I woke up very disturbed. What does it mean? I never, ever, ever fly be the seat of my pants when it comes to travel or fine-dining. I obviously must be having control issues... What else is new? Ha.

6. I took Sawyer to get a flu shot today and he took it like a champ. He hasn't cried for a shot since his newborn days, but given his growing opinion on life in general, I wasn't sure how he would react. He glared at the lady, said "ow," got up, told her "bye bye" and then bent down to kiss his thigh where the shot was as we walked down the hall. 

7. I just finished rereading Athol Fugard's "Master Harold"... and the boys for work (I promise I am punctuating that correctly, it's a stylistic nuance of importance, if anyone is concerned) and my students seemed to appreciate the cultural relevance today, despite the book being set in 1950s South Africa. 

8. I am glad Rory reminded me to pick up Hillbilly Elegy- I need to understand...

9. I am trying to buckle the eff down this week and grade essays like a crazy woman. I think I have gotten somewhere over 100 done in 2.5 days and tomorrow I might have to head to Starbucks after Sawyer is in bed to finish what I wanted to before Friday, since that is the start of our Thanksgiving break (ohmygod ohmygod ohmygod it's almost heeeeeeere). I won't be caught up, but I had a goal and I want to make it, dammit.

10. 75% of Target shopping trips end in Christmas decor being bought. It's totally Sawyer's fault. 

Bullet Journal Fail

At the end of September I wrote about how I was going to give Bullet Journaling a try, and in October I did. I bought a notebook, some washi tape, markers, and some pens and created some pages to keep track of things like blog posts, miles ran, expenditures, and just some other assorted goals. It wasn't beautiful, but I made an effort to write neatly and slap some color on the pages. In theory, bullet journaling was right up my organized, control-freak, goal-oriented, journaling alley.

Alas, I failed. There are a few reasons why:

1. Time: My plate is overflowing and this, while enjoyable, was something I simply didn't have time add. 

2. Heft: Bullet journaling requires supplies that take up space. I already feel like a bag lady going in and out of work between all the crap I have to transport, and I had planned on using a few minutes at lunch each day to update it. There's not much availbable time at hom

3. Other systems: I already regularly write notes on my phone, I am a dedicated paper-planner user, and I have my own personal journal for all of those "dear diary" moments. I also keep track of things like the books I've read or own here on the blog. Pinterest and saved Bloglovin' posts also manage things like recipes I've tried and things I want to make. I just don't need another system.

4. Expense: I can see this becoming sort of a pricy hobby if you're always picking up more pens or tape or stencils or whatever. I rather spent my money on makeup, coffee, and books.

5. Completionist Syndrom: I found myself getting behind and forgetting what I did or didn't do (like how many miles I ran, for example), and it bothered me the record of my month wasn't complete. 

So, for me, bullet journaling is a no-go, at least for where I am at right now. Maybe it's something that I would be more successful at during the summer when I have more flexibility and time to play around with more creative sorts of projects. I am still glad I tried it, and I do still think the whole concept is really awesome and can see how it's a lifesaver for a lot of people. I am also glad that I've officially decided to quit and don't have the self-induced obligation persisting. 

Children's Books- Teaching Diversity

As the results of the election continue to percolate and hurt, my husband and I have talked about things we can actually do, as opposed to just complaining (granted we're just getting warmed up, I'm sure). We've talked about how we can use our jobs as vehicles to spread tolerance (he is in advertising and me, as a teacher, can ensure that my classroom is a safe place and that my students know I am open-minded and accepting, whether they are undocumented, homosexual, etc...), allocate our charitable contributions towards places that may be in jeopardy (or up the amounts for ones we already give to that need it), and, most importantly, do everything we can to raise a son that does not discriminate against those of different nationalities and ethnicities, understands that women are equal and have a right to do what they please with their bodies, acknowledges gender fluidity and same sex marriages, and is conscientious of the environment (and lots of other things). Obviously the best way to teach this is by owning it and living it ourselves. But conversations do need to happen- you can't expect that your child is a complete sponge. We also know that Sawyer has his own brain and will make his own decisions. But the fundamental rights of others to exist safely and fairly, and the need for our earth to be protected, are non-negotiable. 

He is only two-and-a-half right now, so sitting him down to watch TED Talks or engaging in discussions in the car about Obamacare and the Lilly Ledbetter Act are sort of unrealistic right now. But I truly believe that it's never too early to start the conversation, so that's why, in a semi-knee-jerk reaction to the election that I don't regret at all, I ordered many, many children's books that promote diversity and awareness of important issues. This is my first kid, after all- I am not exactly an expert on explaining greenhouse emissions or homosexuality to a small child. Here's what we will be reading and talking about:


This story is about a young boy who can't get the cool shoes that all the other kids are getting; he feels left out and his grandmother feels guilty. When he does track down a pair at a thrift store they are too small but he decides to give to his friend who was the only person that didn't make fun of him.


I love this board book! It goes through the alphabet and brings up some extensive activism vocabulary ("Z is for zapatista"), has a picture of a mom breastfeeding (implied though, no boobage), and covers a wide range of topics from solar power, to democracy, to feminism, to healthy food.

Environmental Awareness

This story tells the tale of a young girl who lives in the Arctic and notices some polar bear cubs separated from their mother one day while she is out on a boat with her father. He uses this as an opportunity to talk about greenhouse emissions and the melting glaciers. It's cute, quick, and to the point. I also love that there are some kid-friendly tips on how to help the environment at the end.


The author, Andrea Beatty, has written a couple of other great books that show kids doing great things (and being allowed to do so). I chose this book because it's an African American little girl who is the budding scientist- not her brother, not her white friend that she's helping, but her and her alone. The message is great (not just boys, but girls too can observe, ask questions, persist), the story is fun, and the illustrations are the best (we also have Iggy Peck, Architect, which is a favorite around here). 

This one is a little long, so I might only read it when he's getting sleepy or when he's eating (aka mobility is low). The content is great, though. Besides Ruth just being a total rockstar (did anyone notice her dissent collar on Wednesday, despite not making any decisions? In-yo-face), this book shows what women can accomplish, while helping others who need it.

LGBTQ Rights

We've actually talked about families having two daddies before, since we have And Tango Makes Three, but I liked that this one was about a little girl who goes to school and realizes that there is nothing wrong with her two mommies. She feels a little different, but the teacher explains that all families are different but great- just as all teachers should. Sawyer is going to preschool next year and it is important to me that he knows that what some may deem as "untraditional" is totally normal. 

Racial and Ethnic Awareness and Equality

This book, about a Chinese girl who is walking through her neighborhood and pointing out shapes seen in many items unique to her culture, is more about awareness. Where we live the Asian community isn't super dominant, so it's important for Sawyer to see different types of food, dress, decor, etc...

The text of this book are lyrics to the song, along with some really beautiful illustrations. While the words are pretty simple, I think that the conversations that can occur based on the pictures (and even song!) could be pretty important. Part of me wants to roll my eyes at this one, but I know he will love it and I also know this can springboard into more important talks in the future. So, this one is a good one for just exploring differences.  Oh, and I'm not playing the CD of the song for him. Just... no. 

This book is published by National Geographic and has simple words accompanying powerful photography of families from around the world doing the basic things all humans do- eating, interacting, traveling, playing, etc... Bottom line- despite having different colored skin, wearing different clothing, or living in a variety of habitats, we are all human. 

This one made me sort of angry, but at reality not the book itself. Unhei, a Korean immigrant, arrives in America and feels pressured to change her name because people can't pronounce it or think it's too different (this has happened with many of my own students, over the years; I will be the first to admit that sometimes I have some serious "white girl" pronunciation, but I would NEVER ask a student to change his or her name or if I could give them an easier-to-say nickname). Eventually she becomes more comfortable, but it takes time and she is lucky to have some kind interactions along the way. Respecting who people are and where they come from, as well as their cultures, is so critical.

So, here are the ten I've bought this time around (obviously I didn't find one on everything; I'd like to do some more research and find some more... suggestions welcome!). We buy Sawyer lots of books and making sure I am more conscientious when selecting them in the future to include a variety of subjects, characters, and authors is something that's important to me. 

So, yes, I am fearful for the direction of our country, but I do know that I am doing my part in my home.

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

[comfort food]

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This will be half election based, half rest-of-life based. If you don't want to read about my thoughts on what happened last night, skip down to number 6. 

1. I am so utterly disappointed with the election results; we have set feminism, racial equality, environmental protection, education, and everything else that matters  back decades. I am, though, happy that the people I consider dear to me are also progressive, socially-conscious people. I am thankful that I live in California, where we, for better or worse, live in this sort of liberal bubble that will hopefully protect its inhabitants a bit. A lot of important propositions passed in our state last night, which was one positive (like prop 55 for education).

2. The third-party voters anger me very much. 

3. I bought many, many book on diversity for Sawyer today so that I can at least sit down with him now and start teaching him about how to be good to others and how to respect all types of people. (Post to come!)

4. I talked to a colleague today for awhile about what the senate can do to help; basically, from what I understand, the democrats need to stick together and filibuster every little thing that they can in order to stall as much as possible. 

5. The electoral college is an archaic piece of junk. 

(election stuff over)

6. I have found the best pie crust ever. There's more sugar in it than other crusts I have used, but I think that's actually a really good thing. It's absolutely perfection. I made it to bake a salted caramel apple pie this weekend that's in the picture above (the filling is from my basic cooking Bible, Better Homes and Gardens, and the caramel is from Sally's Baking Blog). 

7. The other day I took a few of Sawyer's baby things (high chair, exersaucer a ton of clothes, etc...) over to our daycare lady's house so she could give to a family in desperate need. I was planning on getting rid of them anyway, but I had a moment of serious teary-eyed-ness there. I am growing more and more sure that I don't want to have a second child, but I almost felt that I was making the choice at that moment on Monday night, and I'm not ready to 100% do that yet. Alas, I am not a robot after all.

8. As if the new Gilmore Girls episodes weren't enough, I just found out that Lauren Graham has a new memoir coming out later this month. It sounds like a great audiobook option to me!

9. I wrote a post on Sunday that was about a sort of issue I've had with one of my own problematic personal flaws lately, but I didn't publish it because I knew that there would be a possibility that there might be people IRL possibly rooting for me to be unsuccessful and unhappy and I didn't want to give them ammo (although background checks are required now in CA... badadadum). I often regret not making this blog anonymous, but that ship has sailed! My point? I am disappointed in myself for caring what other people think and say. 

10. This weekend Scott and I are taking our crazy little child to see Thomas and Friends or whatever the hell it's called. We have to get up early. We have to be around other families with small children. We have to drive almost 45 minutes to get there. We have to ride on a train that goes nowhere in particular. We have to smile and be excited. OH MY GOD PARENTING IS SO HARD.

Cross Stitch Tutorial

One of the reasons why most of us blog is so that we can share our hobbies and loves with others- or in other words, so we can talk about things we enjoy and not bore our spouses with the details over and over again. That's why I am here today to teach you how to cross stitch. I know, I know. Just here me out.

I have been cross stitching intermittently since I was a kid; I'd buy the kits at the craft store and would be super gung-ho about the project for a few weeks and then quit or forget about it or mess up so badly that I became frustrated (I was like ten, give me a break). Then a few months later I'd repeat the process. What I have always appreciated, though, is that it's something you can do while watching TV, hanging out around the house, or when you know you might be interrupted, since it's easy to pick back up. You're also making something, which I see the logic in. Cross-stitching is a fairly cheap hobby (I'd say between the pattern and materials you'll spend around $20, depending on how many skeins of floss you need; framing will add to the total), and it's totally easy. I took up the hobby again after a few years of a break and am so glad. 

Sold? Ready to go? Excellent. 

1. Pick a pattern. Back in the day you bought kits at the craft store with everything you needed, minus the hoop. They were quite pricy! Now this wonderful site- you may of heard of it- Etsy, is the place to get started (I kid, I kid, even my husband knows what Etsy is). Just search for cross stitch patterns, specifying certain designs you have in mind or ("nature cross stitch" or "easy cross stitch") and you can download your patterns and instructions instantly. I am getting started on "Abstract Mountain" by WooHoo Cross Stitch- what it will eventually look like is right here:

I suggest not choosing something that has a million different colors to start off. There are actually many really cool ones that are monochromatic, which may seem boring but simplifies switching out thread and ends up looking cool (the Harry Potter one I did a few months ago is a great example).

2. Once you have your design selected you will download the actual pattern itself and the instructions, which will include the colors you will need (along with the DMC numbers for easy purchasing at the craft store), suggestions on what sort of thread count Aida cloth to get (the higher the count the smaller the finished product), whether there are any other stitches besides cross stitch (sometimes you will need to backstitch or do french knots; backstitch is super easy, but even I have to google refresher steps for the knots...), dimensions, etc...

3. Gather the supplies! You will need your pattern, embroidery floss (if for some reason you can't find a certain color you can either order it online or find something close), a big enough hoop, a needle, and scissors. 

4. Locate the middle of your cloth (I mark it lightly with a pencil) and tighten the hoop around it. Then, make sure you have the center of your pattern marked. After that it's up to you whether or not you want to start in the direct middle- a lot of time it's not practical. For the mountain above the middle was in the white snowcap, which would have shown up poorly for this tutorial, so I counted over until the navy blue started. As long as you know how to count, you know how to cross stitch!

5. Once you have decided where to start then cut an eighteen-ish inch piece of floss. Then, split off two threads of your embroidery floss. Floss comes in six strings- you only want two at a time. Thread your needle.

6. Decide what direction you are always going to make the first part of your cross; I go from the bottom left hole to the top right. It's important you are consistent. Make your first stitch and knot the pieces in the back.

7. Count how many stitches are in the direction you want to go in; there's no law you have to do it this way, but I tend to do the first part of the stitch in a line and then go back down and finish the stitch (the pictures make it easier to understand). 

8. Keep going! Get the hang of it! Don't worry- you're string will tangle, you'll have to undo a stitch occasionally when you lose count, and your hands may hurt in the beginning. But keep going. You just figured out how to make binge watching whatever the people love these days more justifiable.

Helpful Hints:
- Wash your hand! I cannot stress this enough. The cloth is light and so are some of the colors; even just basic human skin oils can cause discoloration.

- Mark off the squares you have done with a pencil so that you know what's done and what's not.

- The back will be a hot mess; as long as the front is fine, who cares?

[I just finished this and it needs to be ironed and mounted]

- When you're done do something with it! Hang it in the hoop, give it away, mount and back, post pictures on Instagram... whatever. Just don't put in a drawer and forget that you risked Carpal Tunnel Syndrome on that bad boy.

-You're design probably won't be perfect, but do try to be really mindful of your counting and double check once in awhile. 

- Figure out a way to organize your floss. When I was a kid I used a box and had my colors on cards- the right way to do it. Now that I am older I have been using a terribly wasteful baggie system, one that will be fixed soon since I just bought a floss organizer (they make good earring holders too...)